“South Street – A New Musical Comedy” at The Pasadena Playhouse benefits from a strong cast and a visually stunning set. This new musical by Richard Addrisi (music & lyrics) and Craig Carlisle (book) chronicles the history of Sammy’s Place on South Street in Philadelphia from its origins in 1980 as The Brass Pole, a strip joint, to its status as a popular neighborhood hangout in 1997.
Colorful scenic design by Andy Walmsley with the vividly reproduced storefronts of Philly’s South Street smoothly turntables/revolves into the interiors of Sammy’s Place.
The central plotline begins with Cloe (Maria Eberline) and her little brother Norton (Andy Scott Harris) travelling to The Brass Pole to live with their aunt, who, unfortunately, no longer works there. With nowhere else to go, Cloe auditions for an available stripper position and nails it. Owner Sammy (Tom Shelton) and his gal, the lead stripper Sybil (Valerie Perri), take a liking to the homeless kids and offer them a much-needed place to live, welcoming them both into their motley family, which includes bartender Lou (Harrison White), emcee Arnie (Ezra Buzzington) and stripper Lydia (Lowe Taylor).
Piano player Johnny (Brent Schindele) provides the love interest for the vulnerable Cloe. Schindele’s stage presence and smooth multi-ranged vocals make him totally believable as the destined-to-be charismatic rock star Johnny Blue.
Scene-stealer Cassie Silva, as Cloe’s teenage daughter Crystal, doesn’t appear until the second act. But when she does, Silva makes her initial dance number a showstopper and show choreographer Dana Solimando’s best dance routine. Silva’s subsequent scenes with Eberline and Schindele really pop as her enthusiasm exudes and overflows off the stage.
The musical’s best songs include Perri’s sexy, fun bump-and-grind “Ya Gotta Have Class,” Taylor’s simple and plaintive “How About Me,” Buzzington’s revealing “No More Polyester,” and Schindele’s romantic and aching “Forever on My Mind.”
Others with vocal talents/ranges worth watching for include both actors who played Norton (Harris as the younger and Matthew Patrick Davis as the adult).
Eberline’s strong vocals were overpowered by the orchestrations and the unsympathetic nature of her character Cloe.
The mish-mash of acting styles, with the two Pachagalope sons (Jim Holdridge and Benjamin Goldsmith) played as slapstick to everyone else in the cast playing straight, matches the mish-mash of the uneven script’s logic. If “magic” equals or can replace logic, this show will work for you. For example: (Spoiler alert!) Young boy’s crush on stripper blooms into full romance when the boy becomes an adult. Emcee (channelling Christopher Lloyd) gone missing reappears a new man with no explanation. Man finds out he has a 17-year-old daughter and his negative reaction is handled in a few throwaway sentences and then continues on to a happy ending.
The costuming by Kate Bergh of the formfitting dresses on the very fit Eberline and sinfully curvaceous Perri seem more 2011 than 1997.
Award-winning director Roger Castellano keeps the sometimes-nonsensical story moving at a quick pace.
—Gil Kaan, Culture Spot LA
Performances continue through Oct. 16. Showtimes are Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m. The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. For tickets, call The Pasadena Playhouse (626) 921-1161 or visit www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org.
Good lord, did we see the same production? Here’s my review:
Well, the Pasadena Playhouse has been heading south for some time now and I fear this production isn’t going to help their sinking reputation. And from what I hear, it’s not really even their production, they just found this crazy TV woman who wanted to control every aspect of it and pay for it all.
As Tevye would say, “Crazy, no?” Well as it turns out…yes, it was crazy.
SOUTH STREET is a show about, well, let’s see, it’s about a bar, I mean a pole dancer club….errr a converted firehouse turned into a sports bar…
SOUTH STREET is a show about a guy named Sammy (Tom Shelton) who owns a pole dancer club sports bar (that used to be a firehouse) who’s married to, or maybe they just live together, an aging pole dancer Sybil, (the gorgeous Val Perri, who looked WAY too young for the part)…who love each other, but aren’t IN love…who are holding auditions for more pole dancers. Along comes a young woman, Chloe (Maria Eberline) and her little brother, homeless, jobless, with no money and SHE auditions and just happens to be a TERRIFIC pole dancer! What a coincidence! And guess what? Sammy and Sybil, just happen to have a room in the back where they can stay!
We learn this in a series of flashbacks to the year 1980 (the show starts off in 1997…I’m not sure why). There are dance contests and street festivals, young women playing teenage girls, a guy that is a good 2 feet taller than the rest of the cast, some really bad acting, and most of all, really poor direction by Roger Castellano. I mean, we’re talking Directing 101 mistakes.
Brand new shows take an experienced hand, and even then, a very special hand that can guide and form the show into a cohesive work. Clearly this producer woman, Kathleen K. Johnson, wanted someone she could bull doze while she turned the show into her sole vision. I have never seen so much money thrown at such a mess of a show in my entire life. The set moved well and was an enormous undertaking for the small Playhouse stage. But it was supposed to be a pole dancer club and it looked like a sports bar or college meeting house. At one point, poor Val has to say, “The kids did a great job with the decorations!” Well the decorations where a few strings of lights that had already been hanging there the whole show and a few balloons. The infamous “pole” never moves. When the set revolves, revealing the street outside the club, the pole is still there, trailing off into the clouds somewhere! Perhaps Sybil is hoping God will send down some real pole dancers to liven up the show?
There is also a moon-faced clock which has a storyline of its own. At first it doesn’t work, as the “key” has been missing for some time. Fortunately, Chloe and her brother move into that room and he finds the key! So the bartender Lou (Harrison White, whose acting comes straight out of an over-the-top sitcom), winds the clock back up and gets it working. It also lights it up! Now how many clocks light up by winding them?!
The music and lyrics are written by Richard Addrisi who co-wrote the 1967 hit song “Never My Love,” by The Association. The songs are god-awful. I’ve never heard so many words crammed into musical phrases. I tried to remember some but just can’t. The book by Craig Carlisle is Jubilation T. Cornpone to the max.
The rest of the show gives us a bar singer who leaves to become a “rock star” (even though he never sings a “rock” song in the show), leaving behind his pole dancer girlfriend, who unbeknownst to him, is pregnant. She doesn’t want to tell him because she knows he’ll sacrifice his career and she’ll never hear the end of it. Her little brother has a crush on a dancer 7 years older, who’s always the bridesmaid…at least until the flashback is over and he’s old enough to propose. Sammy dies and we’re manipulated to think that he left behind a box full of “markers” and two thugs are going to take the bar away. But hey, the “rock star” is rich and famous after the flashback, so maybe he can pay it off and save the day. But it turns out, Sammy paid off all the markers before he died, from the rock star’s “commissions.” What commissions?
Good luck Pasadena Playhouse. The musical version of “Sleepless in Seattle” is next. Oy.