WOMEN ON THE VERGE IS A MADHOUSE ROMP ABOUT LOVE, SEX, COMEDY AND SET TO A FUN POP SCORE.
Town Hall Theatre closes its stellar 74th season with a visit to Madrid, Spain. The company stages Pedro Almodovar’s classic story WOMEN ON A VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. The women in this musical explore heartache and joy in an explosion of color and a hilarious black comedy. Adapted from Almodovar’s popular, award-winning 1988 film, the musical features a book by television and stage writer Jeffrey Lane, with a lush, lively Latin high end score by the talented composer, David Yazbek (“Tootsie,” “The Bands Visit”).
Local favorite director Dawn Monique Williams says these women are very familiar to her “all their wild contradictions live in me, and their best friends and mothers are teaching me to roll with the punches, to laugh at myself and go where there is love.” THT Artistic Director Susan E. Evans is excited to share this musical with Town Hall audiences “We have a super talented cast and a chance to debut the London revision of this musical for our community with a terrific score and book.”
Credit Director Williams and Music Director Lindsey Schmeltzer for making this wild ride of love and “mix up” a must see night of local theatre. Take a Spanish cad, his lover, his vengeful ex-wife, an airhead fashion model, and a narrator cab driver, and you have WOMEN ON A VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. You quickly get to know, and gradually get to love, the main characters. The story is led by the riveting Patricia Pitpitan as Pepa, the underworked voiceover actress who plots to use Valium-laced gazpacho to wreak her revenge on her lover, Iván, who has left her. The two hour musical opens with the song “Madrid” featuring the “nameless” Cab driver, Keaton Wilkerson, and introduces the 14 member cast. Later the song “On The Verge” is a hand clapper Spanish flamingo. Pitpitan has a vulnerable charm and a strong voice as she sings "Lovesick" and "Island" two of the musical highlights.
The confident Paul Plain plays Iván, the cad in question, a suave type who doesn't care who he hurts by his love-'em-and-leave-'em lifestyle. The ideal Sheila Viramontes is the older Lucía his ex-wife, whose rage over being deserted led her to a stay in a mental ward and is now bent on revenge. Her shy son, Carlos, played by the talented stammering Steven McCloud is engaged to his confused fiancee Marisa played by the polished Madison Gerringerm. Marisa turns out to be the first, casualty of Pepa's special gazpacho. Carlos loves to flirt with Pepa's best gal pal Candela, played by the terrific Marah Sotelo, a mad romantic who has fallen for a bully guy named Malik who just might be an international terrorist. "The minute I saw the grenade belt, I knew something was up," she tells Pepa, one of the best lines in the show. Candela frantically calls Pepa and sings "Model Behavior" a fun performance that reminded me of a Stephen Sondheim's song from Company.
WOMEN ON THE VERGE is madcap musical comedy, and a screwball love story gone insanely awry. The heart of the madness is the Taxi Driver played with enthusiasm by the standout Wilkerson, who brings a Greek chorus or “Che” (Evita) to the romp, keeping the audience in the game. Plain as Iván, slinks around the story, seducing everyone he encounters. His numbers are all splendid but Plain shines in “Lie to Me.”
Choreographer Roberta E. Inscho-Cox keeps the pounding, pop, Spanish flavor score busy with easy movement. This score does not include one of those classic Flamenco numbers but Musical Director Schmeltzer who conducts the show’s pulsating, Spanish orchestra includes some clever hand clapping percussion. The on-stage six piece band worked into the set includes; Dup Crosson, Brent Elberg, David Kelly-Tauson, Caleb Phair, Lindsey Schmeltzer and Javier Serrano, with a dynamite European beat high lighted by Lana Palmer's sound design.
The company costumed in vibrant colorful, pastel tone, period fashions by Valera Coble include slinky perfection for Candela who does many scenes in just her underwear. Martin Flynn’s expressionistic, flexible colorful set uses information panels to take us from home, courthouse and recording studios. Delayne Medoff’s lighting design kept the show colorful -and we all know Madrid is one of the most colorful cities in the world. The back-lighting in the recording booth is perfect soap opera humor and the set includes many entrances spot lighted to make sure the sold-out audience followed the busy, sometimes confusing story.
Assistant Director Marie-Claire Erdynast worked closely with Williams to keep this cast running full throttle and the many costume changes on cue. Props by Debbie Shelley include the very authentic gazpacho ingredients, glasses, cord phones that are tossed around the stage and a bike for the messenger boy, played by Melvign Badiola. The Stage Manager Matthew Quarless is kept busy with the many entrances and the cast opening night hit all their cues. The ensemble cast filling in for the many other characters included the clever Debbie Lynn Carriger, Reg Clay, Carolina Morones, Isabella Capozzi, Kathy Ferber, Gianna Capozzi and the high-octane Melvign Badiola who loves to flirt with the front row audience.
For Mediterranean heat and fervor, this is the musical to see. WOMEN ON A VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN will delight both fans of the film and newcomers to the raucous tale. Touching and hilarious, the giggles and laughs are much higher than in the 1988 film. Mayhem and comic madness, balanced by heart are trademarks of Almodóvar's brilliant work. THT begins their “Transformations” 75th Season September 26th with THE LEGEND GEORGIA MCBRIDE. In May 2020, VIOLET The Musical opens, and the THT 75th Gala is October 26th at the Lafayette Veterans Memorial Center. But in the meantime spend a night in Madrid, Spain with “the women” for an evening of madness and sheer escape, it is a summer Must See.
Town Hall Theatre Company Presents
WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
THE 2015 WEST END VERSION.
Based on the film by Pedro Almodóvar
Book by Jeffrey Lane, Music by David Yazbek
Directed by Dawn Monique Williams
Music Direction by Lindsey Schmeltzer
MUST CLOSE June 22, 2019
Running Time: 2 hours with an intermission
Town Hall Theatre Company,
3535 School Street, Lafayette, CA 94549
BOX OFFICE: (925) 283-1557; www.townhalltheatre.com
Photos by Jay Yamada
THE CAST Patricia Pitpitan as Pepa, Sheila Viramontes as Lucía, Marah Sotelo as Candela, Keaton Wilkerson as the Taxi Driver, Paul Plain as Iván, Madison Gerringer as Marisa, Steven McCloud as Carlos, Debbie Lynn Carriger as Paulina, and Melvign Badiola, Gianna Capozzi, Isabella Capozzi, Reg Clay, Kathy Ferber, and Carolina Morones in the ensemble
OPENING NIGHT INTERVIEWS WITH CAST -