nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
December 23, 2010
Dollface is a new 1950s musical conceived and written by B.J. Sebring, with lyrics by David Forman, music by David Forman and Robert Hyman, and additional material by Bette Midler, Rick Chertoff, Lou Bellofatto, and Eric Bazilian. The writers all have a distinguished record in the music industry. Forman has worked and recorded with the best, including Robert Hyman, who wrote the song “Time After Time” for Cyndi Lauper.
It is 1956 in Kew Gardens, Queens. Dolores “Dollface” Zuckerman dreams of being a TV comedienne. In the meantime, she struggles with jobs such as telling jokes to patients in the hospital (one of them dies of shock) and is unsure of whether her lover Hank will propose to her. That would involve getting her mother’s wedding ring out of hock from the local jewelers, and besides Hank’s mother is not prepared for her son to marry a Jew who wants to be in show business. Victor Catalan, a muscular cigarette magician “from the continent of Cuba” is a potential rival to Hank.
A secret plan of several criminals and a crooked cop to rob the local jewelry store fails, and Victor hides with the loot in Dollface’s apartment. When Hank discovers Victor there, it almost pushes him away from her. However, love triumphs at midnight. Hank, who is the local air raid warden, sounds his siren after hours and this brings the criminals and some undercover Feds who have been patrolling the neighborhood in plaid suits and singing doo-wop songs throughout the show into contact in a most unusual way. Dollface gets the ring and, with Hank’s non-chauvinist support, is that much closer to being the next Lucille Ball.
The lyrics have many '50s dance song touches. My favorite is “Hey Kazotski...lookit how I do the Foxy Trotski.” A bit more racy for the '50s is the discovery of a diamond in a snowdrift by a lady who had to go pee in the alley: “Lady U-Rine luck tonight.”
The Club Rub A Dub has a musical act with exotic turbans and fezes, over-the-top cigarette magic, and a conga line. The Moist Towelette Singers advertise the healthy side-effects of Lucky Duck Cigarettes. I also enjoyed a reference to a 1956 movie from the neighbor Mrs. Silberfarb: “That Charlton Heston, ooh what a hunk of man under that housedress.”
Linda Shell is very spirited as Dollface, who seems to have her hands full juggling Hank and his mother and telling men to buzz off, yet turns the aggravation into laughter.
David Forman (who is married to B.J. Sebring) plays the lead villain, the toupee-wearing Mr. Pearlstein, with utmost unction. David Tass Rodriguez as Victor Catalan has a larger-than-life voice and persona which much complement the show. I enjoyed the struggle of Collin Carr as Hank Childs against his mother, played by Polly McKie. Other standouts in the large cast are Karen Gale as the zaftig head nurse and Kathryn Kates as Mrs. Silberfarb.
The band takes us through many riffs on '50s music: rumba, mambo, rock, and R&B. Mark Marcante’s set works well in the spacious theatre; Dollface’s apartment, the jewelry store, and Club Rub a Dub are walking distance from each other, do not require any scene changes, and facilitate chases and intrigue. Natalie Lunn’s costumes bring back the optimism of the '50s as well as the zany entertainment. Alex Bartenieff’s lighting shows us the difference between good and evil and much Chanukah warmth.