Friday, August 03, 2018

Fringe 2018 - Review - Not Fair, My Lady - 5 stars

tweet review - #mnfringe show #1 - Not Fair, My Lady - Perfect way to start our Fringe; the singing, the politics, the attitude, the swearing; listen to these women; could easily end up being one of the best things in the festival this year - 5 stars

It’s hard to put into words just how cathartic and enjoyable Not Fair, My Lady is.  You really have to experience it for yourself, and I enthusiastically recommend that you do.  It’s about being in the room with this incredible ensemble of performers (Suzie Juul, Courtney Miner, Falicia Nichole, Rue Norman, Marcie Panian, Kecia Beth Stimmler Rehkamp, and Colleen Somerville) singing and acting the hell out of this thing.  The script and new lyrics by Shanan Custer and Colleen Somerville is both hilarious and scathing.  They are taking a blowtorch to the programming decisions of Broadway producers for the upcoming New York theater season - including revivals of Kiss Me, Kate; My Fair Lady, and Carousel - not exactly shining examples of female empowerment.  But they don’t stop there.  Every misogynist cliche in the American musical theater playbook gets raked over the coals - and there are a lot of them.

“In these tumultuous, dumpster fire times…”

Now, this is a “preaching to the converted” kind of show.  If you’re OK with misogyny, or don’t get what the big deal is, you probably need to see this show, but I’m not sure you’d get it.  (But maybe the beautiful singing and all the laughs would open your mind, and the message would get through.  We can hope.)  If you can’t hear a bad word said against any of the classics of American musical theater, then this is not your show.  If you’re the sort of person who is willing to defend these pieces of theater because “it’s part of our tradition” or “the music is so pretty,” then Not Fair, My Lady isn’t your Fringe show.  Oh, you’ll get to hear countless selections from all the greatest hits.  It’s a real jukebox musical of musicals.  It’s a cornucopia of every recognizable ditty and catchy melody in the American musical theater lexicon.  It’s all here.  But they’re taking it all down.  There is a wonderful ensemble of voices singing these lovely old tunes.  But you will never hear them the same way again - and that’s a good thing.  Not Fair, My Lady is the loveliest hour of primal scream therapy you will ever hear.  The cast, and the audience, can get it all out of their system in one big glorious songbook of an hour.

“Are you f**king kidding me?!”

In fact, there was only one teeny little hiccup in the whole show, and that’s easily fixed with a word.  It also shows how closely the audience was hanging on every word of this show.  At one point, a performer says, “This last medley is all Low Self-Esteem songs.”  And you’re sitting there thinking, “No, it can’t be over yet.  I mean, they crammed a ton of great material into everything we’ve seen so far, but it can’t be over, not so soon.  But maybe I’ve been having such a good time, it just flew by, and it really is almost done.”  At the same time, everybody is totally ready to applaud like crazy for this show.  (And we know there’s still an evening of three other shows to get to, often at other venues.)  So when that particular medley is over, and the ensemble strikes a pose, we figure that’s our cue.  Applause!  But wait, it’s not over.  It’s the last medley, yes, but there’s still plenty of show left (YAY!).  So how about, “This next medley…”?

“The play was about dental hygiene.  I was plaque.  It taught me a lot about this business.”

It’s an all-female team here, which keeps the whole production laser-focused on its aim.  Somerville is also co-producer of the project, with Anita Ruth, who also did the music arrangements.  Jaclyn Schwartz is the amazing accompanist.  Nicole Wilder is the director, Heather Fisher the choreographer, and Rachel Flynn holds it all together as stage manager and props person.

"Just change everything about yourself and he'll love you.  Everyone will love you."

What I sincerely hope and pray for is that this entire talented team takes everything they just did a whole show excoriating, turn it around, and create their own original musical - with perfect roles for all these performers, taking full advantage of all their skills.  What an exciting, equally cathartic, and great show that would be.  They know the full blueprint of what NOT to do.  Now do the opposite (backwards and in heels, as they say - or you know what, f**k heels, wear something comfortable you can really move in).  Then, don’t just do it in the Fringe (but, please, do it in the Fringe).  Send that thing out into the world - every theater department, every community theater, constantly in search of a good musical with great roles for a lot of women, would jump on that thing in a second.

“Uter-you, not uter-us!”

In the meantime, Not Fair, My Lady was a perfect way to kick off our Fringe.  Mom was just sorry we didn’t have any singles on us to purchase a Trample On The Patriarchy button to support the League of Professional Theatre Women.  If you want to see a great Fringe musical, you want to see Not Fair, My Lady.  I tweeted the other night that (even though it was only the very first thing we’d seen) it could easily end up being one of the best things in the whole Fringe Festival this year, and I stand by it.

5 stars - Very Highly Recommended

Here's some handy links to my full Top 10, Top 11-20 and Returning Favorites lists.

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