Monday, March 15, 2010
Valley of the Dolls - Actors Fund
The decidedly ridiculous pleasures of Valley of the Dolls, still one of the crown jewels of camp movie trash, made their hilarious way onto the stage for this one-night-only reading to benefit Actors Fund. The casting was inspired, which says something considering the revolving door of talents announced, canceled and replaced along the way. Everybody brought comic skill and an infectious party spirit, most especially the 3 gals in the key roles as friends whose lives are melodramatically warped by show biz and pills. As Neely O'Hara, Heidi Blickenstaff uproariously cribbed and exaggerated Patty Duke's sometimes bizarre performance right down to the pitchfork line readings and herky-jerky dance moves. Her laugh out loud hysterical performance set the tone: this was Valley of the Dolls as might have been done by the Carol Burnett Show troupe. As "good girl" Anne Welles, Martha Plimpton went a different, riskier route than straightforward spoof and put an arch, knowing spin on her lines to sensational effect - in their scenes together, she and Craig Bierko (as Lyon Burke) seemed to be having a contest for Eyebrow Raised Highest. Nancy Anderson, as Jennifer North, hilariously lampooned Sharon Tate's amateurish acting - the blank stare, the flat affect - and yet managed to give the character a stealth poignancy. The evening was overstuffed with priceless one-time performances from ones you expected (Charles Busch, a hoot doing Susan Hayward's Helen Lawson) to one you didn't (Troy Britton Johnson, a riot as cheesy lounge singer Tony Polar). This kind of evening is hard to pull off - a couple of false moves, and you're stuck with miserable failed camp - but director Carl Andress, and all those who contributed, pulled this one off spectacularly.