Theatre Review

Gender-bender comedy at Ocean State Theatre

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Blake Edwards’ 1982 funny and provocative film, “Victor/Victoria,” starring his wife, Julie Andrews, won seven Academy Awards and was made into a Broadway musical with a score by Henry Mancini.

The story of Victoria, a down-and-out British singer trying to make it in 1930s Paris, is filled with both verbal and physical humor. Victoria is a woman who dresses and acts like a man who is pretending to be a woman. Got that?

Her new friend Toddy (Bill Whitehead Jr.) an openly gay man, helps her with the scheme, which works very well and quickly makes her a star as a “female impersonator.”

There’s one big problem: businessman/gangster King Marchan (Christopher Swan) is convinced that Victor is a woman and falls in love with her, questioning his own sexuality. The plot thickens as other characters become involved, including King’s brassy girlfriend, Norma (Kriston Wetherington), and his bodyguard, Squash (Ben Salus).

There is a lot of running around adjoining hotel rooms, plus a pursuit by mobsters, jumping in and out of beds, and a number of song and dance routines. It’s a bit hectic as Victoria pretends to be Victor, enjoying her newfound identity, while those around her struggle with their own sexuality.

Scenic designer Erik D. Diaz has created a set featuring upstairs/downstairs adjoining-room hotel suites that figure in two scenes requiring some precise comic timing.

Eden Casteel is perfectly cast as the title character, making a beautiful Victoria and handsome Victor and thrilling us with her fabulous voice. Bill Whitehead Jr. as Toddy is her perfect counterpoint, delivering some of the best lines and not overplaying his “gayness.”

It is interesting to listen to the language and characterizations of gay people as written a number of years ago

The musical is long, two and a half hours, and uses Mancini’s songs to move the plot along. There are a few song and dance numbers, including “Le Jazz Hot,” which you may remember.

I must admit, Norma did get on my nerves with her loud, shrill voice, but I have to give Wethering credit for playing the role as written.

“Victor/Victoria is not quite as provocative as it was when it first appeared on Broadway, as the jokes and stereotypes about the gay community seem a bit more whimsical.

If you want to laugh, enjoy physical comedy and like the songs of the great Henry Mancini, you can’t go wrong with OSTC’s production of “Victor/Victoria,” as directed by Amiee Turner, at Warwick’s Ocean State Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Blvd., through May 21. Call 921-6800 for reservations.

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