Presumably building on the successes of such shows as Nunsense and Menopause the Musical, book writer Jennie Fahn and composer/lyricist Joe Symon have put together a show called Broads which features four Broadway stars, a lot of corny jokes, some OK songs, and a lot of energy. Fahn said she wrote this to celebrate the women she met in her grandmother’s retirement home. The theatre says the show has the largest presale of any show that ever played the El Portal. Most likely this is due more to the cast involved than to any word of mouth about the show.
The four stars involved are Ivonne Coll, Leslie Esterbrook, June Gable, and Barbara Niles. All these “broads” have extensive Broadway credits; among them they’ve appeared in shows like Jesus Christ Superstar, California Suite, and Candide. And they’re known beyond Broadway too; Ms. Easterbrook, for example, will be familiar to a wider audience from her regular role in the Police Academy movies.
The singers give it their all, and rather than pulling pull back from the tired jokes, they take the good with the bad like the good sports and pros that they are. They look and sound great. They have great clothes by Shon LeBlanc. Their choreographer is the ubiquitous Kay Cole, and the equally ubiquitous Jules Aaron is the director. They even have a little offstage help from the voiceover talents of Kay Ballard and Shecky Greene, who provide the funniest dialogue of the evening.
The faults are in the lame writing and in the casting. These ladies are not over the hill, except by Hollywood standards, and certainly they could each pull their weight in a Broadway show. The problem is, they just aren’t “old broads.”
I am sure this show will find an audience. One audience member I spoke to couldn’t wait to come again. To each his own. Broads plays at the El Portal Theatre until April 4th.