Brüka Theater’s gender-bending musical comedy “Victor/Victoria” delivers a germane message during the month Reno celebrates Pride.
Directed by Bill Ware, and set in 1934 France, Blake Edwards’ musical opens in the sparse Chez Lui night club where the flamboyant resident performer Carole “Toddy” Todd (Michael Peters) and his chorus of Les Boys seductively describe “Paris by Night” and her shady secrets. After a failed vocal audition, Victoria (Amy Ginder) despairingly proclaims that things would be better “If [she] Were a Man.” Toddy persuades her to become Count Victor Grazinski, a Polish female impersonator who can hit a glass-shattering high G-flat. American mobster King Marchan (Jake Steinman) sees Victor’s performance and immediately falls in love with Victor’s female impersonation much to the chagrin of himself and his girlfriend Norma Cassidy (Sophie Moeller), unleashing soul searching and pandemonium.
Ginder’s mezzo-soprano voice is like velvet and reminiscent of Julia Andrews and Liza Minelli. She is believable as an ambitious woman fearful that someone will discover her ruse. The dashing Peter, who seems most comfortable in his pink velvet and feather trimmed robe, is undeniably charming, loveable, and absolute perfection. With her Jean Harlow looks, bombshell Moeller’s bawdy, fun energy delivers infectious humor while helping the audience forgive Steinman’s forgettable performance. When Squash Berstein (DJ Hope) sings a tender solo in Act II, I was disappointed that the loveable Hope wasn’t cast as Marchan.
The disjointed set design clashes between simplicity and complexity. The larger set changes are too long and might be rectified with more stagehands. However, the faultless tiny orchestra, symphonically led by Bill Quinby, helps soothe any impatience. Sarah Coyl’s violin solo is a real treat. Deborah Morrison’s costumes are complementary to Catherine Eardley’s delightful choreography. Valerie Huston delivers a hauntingly sweet solo that provides a sense of déjà vu. The small chorus is vocally pitchy and occasionally slapstick. However, they balance their multiple roles and provide enthusiasm to the seasoned actors — Ginder, Peters, and Moeller.
“Victor/Victoria” reminds the audience that those “living in the shadows” deserve to love who they love regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation — without judgment, shame, bigotry, and hate; “life should [always] be our lover.” Grab a friend, spend an evening downtown and support Pride and community theater.
Lisa Genasci, Art Spot Reno theater critic
With a Master’s degree from Northeastern University, Lisa, a former community theater thespian and contralto, fell in love with and moved to Northern Nevada in 2004 where she has humorously (at times) balanced (at times) motherhood, proposal, and technical writing/management, volunteerism and activism.
If you go:
Where: Bruka Theater, 99 N. Virginia St.
When: Through July 27
Details: Purchase tickets at: www.brownpapertickets.com/ event/3623516.