IT IS BEAUTY PARLOR COMEDY IN THE BEST
SAN FRANCISCO WAY, WITH BIG HAIR AND BIG LAUGHS
Stale Magnolias is another high energy campy drag romp from Oasis, directed by Cora Values and written by Sean Owens, now on stage at 11th street club through August 6th. Producer D'Arcy Drollinger revived this appealing take off that originally played in San Francisco back in 2009. Imagine a sequel to Steel Magnolias or a lost season of 'Designing Women,' and a second helping of Fried Green Tomatoes all rolled into one. Director, Cora Values, proprietress of the Gas 'N' Gulp in Rectal, Texas, brings some handsome ladies to stage this big hair and heels novela. Featuring the drag talents of Marilynn Fowler, Jef Valentine, Robert Molossi, Michael Phillis, Drew Todd and Jerry Navarro, terrific wigs by Jordan L'Moore, and an original score by the song writing team of Don Seaver and Sean Owens.
It's the story of six women who are all over the top and full of snappy one liners “So much hairspray we are all stiff by midnight.” It is a very loose parody of the movie, Steel Magnolias. It takes place in Texas at a 1985 hair salon; the action never goes beyond the walls of the salon, set designed beautifully set in pink tones by Sarah Phykitt. The running time is a bit long at just about two hours plus intermission, but the queens onstage fill it with biting zingers “dead is my dating range” and hair spray guns plot twists.
One of the high points of the show occurs just at the beginning as we hear the local radio show for the town of Rectal, Texas where Stale Magnolias takes place. Of course with a name like Rectal, they try to squeeze in as many jokes as possible; most successfully in the opening radio spot. Many of the Oasis audience are dressed to meet these girls, and wanted to add their names on the night appointment list to get their hair groomed. Two audience members a night are picked to play some victims in this crazy hair Palace.
The show proper opens with the very adept Marlynn Fowler as C.C. Chesterfield, the owner of the salon. Her monologue/song showcases her well as a performer and gives us a good deal of the exposition needed to start off the show although it hints at a central conflict that doesn't much influence the rest of the show. She is quickly joined on stage by Sugar Sweetly played by Michael Phillis with a mixture of humble southern charm and truly frightening mania.
The wheelchair-bound Fanny Chaffer is delightfully played by Drew Todd, and her ancient vitriolic character is assisted by the fact that the writers gave her all the best one-liners. Another standout is local favorite Jeff Valentine as radio station owner and local bigwig Raven Looney. She's bold and brash onstage, dressed in red and making good comedic choices and stealing the spotlight as a wealthy powerful woman with an attitude.
Her confrontations with Robert Molossi as Spuvina Fetlock are an early highlight but become increasingly confusing as the plot progresses. It is one of the many subplots in a show that lacks narrative cohesion, finally resolving around a plot point that seemed trivial earlier. The musical numbers are fairly tepid, at times they are great fun, but often they are a vehicle for slow-moving exposition. A few of the songs don't work with the story. "The Hottest Wheels in Town" sung well but has that High School Musical theme yet perfect for the very funny Drew Todd as the meanest deb in town and rocks out in her wheelchair like in any John Waters classic.
Although it felt slow at moments, fans of campy old-school comedy complete with ridiculous wigs by the fantastic Jordan L'moore should enjoy this latest offering from the fantastic queens of Oasis. Composer Don Seaver ably assists on keyboard along with Mark Macario on drums and they keep the musical numbers snappy and fun. Leonardo Hildago's lighting design at times has a concert feel and is at its best when ladies open the second act in pools of dramatic lighting as their hair is an infected mess. Jeff Valentine also created the fab gowns and wear for the six mad girls, and they are a smash of color and 80's glam.
Stale Magnolias is on the low end to the Champagne White productions that D’Arcy and company are known for. This is keen fun and giggles and kept the sold out crowd howling for more, it's a sizzling camp production with five full throttle drag queens. But heed the pre-show warning about seeing women in southern 80s couture. It is time to take another trip back to the "Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean!" Get one more chance to catch "The Last Picture Show!" Meet six women suspected of "Crimes of the Heart!" It's gruesome in the best San Francisco way possible.
The Oasis Presents
Stale Magnolias The Musical
Book and lyrics by Sean Owens,
Music by Don Seaver.
Directed by Cora Values.
Through August 6, Thursday-Friday-Saturday at 7 pm
OASIS, 298 11th Street corner of Folsom, San Francisco.
2 hours with one intermission
Featuring the drag talents of Marilynn Fowler, Jef Valentine, Robert Molossi, Michael Phillis, 'Drew Todd and Jerry Navarro.
Tickets are $25-$35 in advance at www.sfoasis.com.
Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/sfoasis/?fref=ts
PHOTOS BY JAMES JORDAN AND VMEDIAA
Additional Photo's by Vmediaa and James Jordan