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A CurtainUp DC Review
The back story, such as it is, involves three sibling rivals— a niece who wants to be a singer, a serpent, and a mysterious bowl filled with a chartreuse liquid that has some magical powers when applied to hands, sort of like a creamy moisturizer. Never mind that none of this makes much sense. What is good about Girlstar are the three leads and, particularly, Frank Labovitz's elegant costumes. (Message to Mr. L., please go retail.)
As Daniella Espere, Donna Migliaccio, one of the originators and the longtime leading lady of Signature, plays the nasty sister whose ambition knows no bounds. She tries to make stars of the singers under her guidance and gets rid of everyone she does not like. Migliaccio has never looked, sung and acted better. She's dynamite, a clone of the bitch in Sunset Boulevard, delivering song after song with dramatic flair and very clear diction.
As Daniella's niece Tina, Desi Oakley is transformed from a mousey, lacking in confidence singer wannabe into a pop belter who can beat the competition by an octave or two anytime. Bobby Smith gives a fine, ultimately endearing performance as Tina's uncle, a drunk who, when he sobers up, is full of remorse just before he ends up like all Danielle's enemies.
There are a few songs that might find their way into a cabaret evening: "Music Everywhere," as sung by Tina; "What's the Word," sung by Jeff (Sam Edgerly) the shy bellhop who goes to bed with a dictionary: and "More Clever Than You," sung by Daniella. Jeff and Tina's show-closing duet "New" has a sweet charm. Signature's seven-piece orchestra, conducted by Adam Wachter, is loud but good.
While all the physical aspects that go into a show — set (by Paul Tate Depoo III); lighting (by Jason Lyons); wigs (by Anne Nesmith) and the aforementioned wonderful costumer, Frank Labovitz — work well, what is missing is a script that isn't a mashup of all the backstage backstabbing dramas that have gone before. Music and lyrics that are less trite would also help.
Why Eric Schaeffer, whose directorial taste and skills have deservedly gone global, would waste his time producing and directing this musical is puzzling.