“No Way to Treat a Lady” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ January 17, 2011


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

An unusual little musical based on the film “No Way to Treat a Lady” isn’t particularly engaging even though Phoenix Theatre’s staging of the show’s local premiere is tops. The film blended a romantic comedy with an unsuccessful actor’s turn to murders to get the needed attention he failed to earn as a performer.

With a cast of four, the two men essay a determined detective/cop, Morris, who is out to solve the crimes, and the errant actor Kit, whose strangulations garner him his relished front page New York Times coverage. One of the women is Sarah, Morris’ new girlfriend, while the other actress plays several diverse characters including Morris’ opinionated Jewish mother plus the victims.

The 1968 film, based on William Goldman’s novel, made an impact then but today is much less interesting. You gather the characters, their situations, attitudes, and motivations quickly so the lethargic plot development and ultimate solution is obvious so things drags as expected events evolve with no suspense.

There are too many scenes that stretch the plot unnecessarily slowing the musical to a tedious crawl. Kit shows up in a second act scene dressed in drag having attracted a lush at a bar. It adds no humor so the ultimate outcome, another death, is realized immediately. Uncreative things get repeated adnauseam. Morris’ protective, bossy, and meddlesome mother gets too much exposure though some of her shtick is funny if not totally clichéd and expected.

Author Douglas J. Cohen’s adaptation doesn’t spark the tale or make it interesting, his songs are pleasant but unmemorable, his song lyrics add little since the plot and characters are so predictable, so everything doesn’t point to a solid musical.

As unexceptional as the show is, the Phoenix Theatre production couldn’t be sharper. Richard Roland’s staging is as creative as the dull and restrictive material allows while a clever unit set with swift shifting pieces keeps the plodding show moving along.

Rusty Ferracane is full of boundless energy as Kit using his rich voice effectively and milking the skimpy comedy for every possible laugh. Christopher Williams is poised as the ill treated but clever Morris and he has a strong voice. Jenn Taber has her best local role yet as Sarah, Morris’ well-to-do lover. Lisa Fogel has a field day with the assortment of diverse supporting players where she goes easily and effortlessly from a senior citizen mother to the various victims making each chum distinctively different.

“No Way to Treat a Lady” is a hard production to assess overall. It’s beautifully done but a waste as a show. It continues through January 30. For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: D