“Jackie Fontaine’s Cavalcade of Celebrities, Super Spotlight Salute to the Troops, Variety Showcase of the Stars Telethon” – iTheatre Collaborative

This review aired on KBAQ May 16, 2011


iTheatre Collaborative, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Spunky iTheatre Collaborative hangs out in what was an old Herberger Theater Center rehearsal hall.  They are known for doing interesting plays including several worthy Arizona premieres.  They balance their seasons with vaudeville entertainments like an annual Christmas Cabaret, and originals like their current offering, “Jackie Fontaine’s Cavalcade of Celebrities, Spotlight Salute to the Troops, Variety Showcase of the Stars and Telethon.”  An awkward, cumbersome title we will shorten to “Jackie Fontaine.”

It’s by local actor/playwright Greg Lutz, who also plays the title role.  I usually stay away from iTheatre Collaborative’s variety shows as they run long and are usually sloppy in both writing and execution.  I slotted this iTheatre Collaborative show when they were doing a new play that got shifted to next season so they could present a return engagement of this show that played successfully earlier this season.

Wish I’d known this show would be substituted.  While some theatergoers looking for easy, quick, and shoddy entertainment may enjoy it, those looking for good, solid theater are out-of-luck.  Oh, for those amazing productions iTheatre Collaborative has mounted of new plays.  Instead this middling amusement proves a mediocre take-off on telethons and celebrity shows done in an admittedly energetic production.  But it isn’t loaded with any marvelous talent or true comedy bits, and it’s filled with ho-hum jokes.  It drags on for two boring hours that proved only mildly amusing to the small Thursday night audience.  Details of the spoof, including the charity, would spoil what little humor there is.

Lutz blasts onto the stage with enough sparkle to dazzle the supposed telethon audience but after a few minutes of his hyper-intense and unpleasantly over-the-top shtick, things grow wearisome.  As Lutz brings on his announcer and his guest stars things drag.  Only female impersonator Neil Cohen doing two good imitations entertains.  First, he’s Lez Traylor, a take-off on the just deceased actress, but Cohen’s better as Cheryl Canning, an on-target mocking of Carol Channing.

The routines are bland and predictable.  You know exactly where they are going and there aren’t any surprises.  Christopher Haines has some decent moments as announcer Ned McMance and Brennan Sarver’s Eddie, the stage manager, has limited good moments.  The women are really bad, but Mike Traylor, slapped with dreadful material, does some passable imitations.

“Jackie Fontaine” is blandly predictable entertainment that may cause some to giggle, but if you’re looking for a funny send-up of telethons and celebrity shows, keep looking.  “Jackie Fontaine” continues through May 21.  For tickets, call the iTheatre Collaborative box office at 602-347-1071 or order tickets online at www.itheatreaz.org.

Grade: D