nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
August 17, 2010
UnsungMusicalsCo.Inc.'s production of Platinum, an obscure Broadway flop from 1978 with a book by Will Holt and Bruce Vilanch, music by Gary William Friedman, and lyrics by Holt, is a very noble failure.
The organization, of which Platinum director and reviser Ben West is the artistic director, made a name for itself during last year's FringeNYC, with West's well-received revised revival of How Now, Dow Jones, a show that was far more successful during its original run than Platinum was.
Platinum premiered under the title Sunset at the Studio Arena Theater in Buffalo in 1977, under the direction of Tommy Tune. Tune was let go, as was the original book writer, Louis LaRusso II. It opened on Broadway starring Alexis Smith and Lisa Mordente (held over from the tryout) at the Mark Hellinger Theatre (now the Times Square Church) in late 1978, closing after 33 performances and 12 previews. A revised revival off-Broadway starring Tammy Grimes took place in 1983, with the title reverted back to Sunset. It closed after 14 performances, though spawned a cast recording that is still available.
Really, it's easy to see why. Simply put, Platinum is just an unremarkable musical. The score is dull and tuneless; the book is predictable and uninteresting. The one-note plot revolves around Lila Halladay, a washed-up '40s movie starlet who is attempting a comeback in 1976 by recording a pop album. She falls for a far younger, once successful rock star named Dan Riley, who attempts to help her with the album. There's also Jeff Rollins, the egomaniacal record producer with whom Lila once had an affair, Crystal Mason (the would-be Eve Harrington, if the character were more interesting), and Jamie Bradbury, the engineer who longs to be a songwriter.
According to reviews of the original production, those characters served a purpose in the original production. It seems West has removed any sort of conflict from the script, including the fact that Dan and Crystal were boyfriend and girlfriend. The result is a meandering, though generally well-acted, hour and fifteen minutes of predictability. From the opening lines you know how Platinum will end.
Donna Bullock is a bit too genial for Lila, lacking the acid that laces many of her lines. Her best work comes late in the piece, where she describes to Crystal (Sarah Litzsinger, who does what she can with absolutely no interesting material), who turned one of Lila's old hits into a "Last Dance"-esque disco tune, just what goes into show business. The men turn in better work, from the deliciously detestable Bruce Sabath as Jeff, to Wayne Wilcox's loveable Jamie and Jay Wilkison's Dan.
Janine Marie McCabe's costumes are the most interesting part of this production. Looking at Jeff's leisure suits was far more exciting than anything the characters were saying or singing. West has tried, but there's just so much you can do when the material just doesn't work.