“All the More to Love” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ April 12, 2010


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Unlike “Unbeatable,” the marvelous world premiere musical about breast cancer Phoenix Theatre mounted a couple of seasons ago, PT’s new musical, “All the More to Love,” is far from ready for the big time.

“All the More to Love’s” ploddingly boring structure and basic premise is badly developed and tediously repetitious. The show goes nowhere as the over 40 one-dimensional characters are never developed beyond largely unexciting musical numbers that grow dull quickly and it just ends with nobody’s travails resolved. It runs two hours but seems to dawdle on forever.

The musical’s title comes from an Alameda, California store that sells used designer apparel for large woman. The fashions give people new leases on life. It’s run by Erna, a hefty, full-figured widow. Book writer Marc Jacobs uses the store and its wacky patrons ineffectively. While a few of the multitude of customers seem interesting we only see their superficial quirks but never really understand their problems. Other than a new outfit, we never learn if any resolve their issues. Jacobs creates negative stereotypes out of most characters, especially the gay guys that use the shop to transform themselves into someone else.

The show drags on as the specialty numbers push sad stereotypes but never touch these characters real troubles. Jacobs should take a cue from Erna. He combined the store’s two owners into one character that has traits of both. He should combine several customers into a few shoppers that we learn about and who resolve issues. All the customers shouldn’t be so negative.

Getting to the show’s bitter end is almost tolerable because of the energetic and brisk Michael Barnard production, although too much of the awful dialogue and dreadful song lyrics can’t be understood. Craig Bohmler’s songs are pleasant but undistinguished and it appeared that the score was pre-recorded, a no-no in live theater.

Of the cast, Johanna Carlisle is a comedic delight even though her many bizarre customers aren’t distinguished or very real. Jenny Hintze makes the most of essaying the thin characters that occasionally enter the store or are parts of dreams. Kristin Drathman has played the same character she uses as Erna in too many shows and it’s time for something new from her. Robert Kolby Harper plays several cross-dressers, a specialty of his, but there’s too many here and his dress situations grow wearisome. Rusty Ferracane squeezes a few laughs out of a hefty woman husband but his gay portrayals are fey slaps at effete guys.

“All the More to Love” continues through April 25 when the show should be quickly forgotten. For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or go online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: D