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Theatre Review (LA): Kiss of The Spider Woman by McNally, Kander and Ebb at the Bootleg Theatre

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The newly formed Havok Theatre Company has put together a terrific creative team to present a splendid production of Kiss Of The Spider Woman. The musical was based on a novel by Manuel Puig and was the winner of seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. The book is by Terrence McNally with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The original Broadway version featured the great Chita Rivera and was directed by Hal Prince.

Fans of the original will not be disappointed. Nick DeGruccio does a bang-up job of directing, and has brought in the super-talented Lee Martino to choreograph. The musical direction is by Michael Pasternostro, who manages to make a six-piece band sound a lot like a full orchestra.

The musical is set in a prison in some Latin American country (perhaps Argentina) that is being run by a fascistic regime. The main characters are an effeminate window dresser, Molina, in jail for eight years for “corruption of a minor,” and an intense Marxist revolutionary, Valentine. Valentine, here played by the stolid and full-voiced Daniel Tatar, cannot abide the antics of his cellmate Molina (the effective Chad Borden), especially Molina’s insistence on reenacting scenes from his favorite movies of Aurora, a B Movie star who specialized in mostly melodramatic features. Molina likes all her performances but one, the Spider Woman, a character that scared him. The symbolism is that a dangerous love, in this case Molina for Valentine, can cause death like that of a kiss from the Spider Woman. Eventually the two guys do learn to love each other, and the result is tragic.

Interwoven in all this are scenes and songs featuring Aurora, played by the fabulous Terra C. MacLeod. Ms. MacLeod has previously appeared in various productions of Chicago here and abroad. She is perfect for the role. She sings beautifully and dances with grace and skill. She’s also sexy as hell.

I have never been a great fan of this musical, because for me the story does not lend itself to musical form. The scenes of fantasy can come off as too campy, with the dancing inmates (though Martino does a fantastic job with the choreography), and occasionally the fantasy scenes do come off as camp because they are played with a wink. Ms. MacLeod, however, made me forget all that, and I enjoyed her performance. This very good production of Kiss of The Spider Woman will play at the Bootleg Theatre through Oct. 26. See it.

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About Robert Machray

  • http://www.manuelpuig.com Gerd Tepass

    Bonjour!
    Execelent article!
    Maybe the blog Manuel Puig will interest you!”
    I posted there some interviews Manuel Puig made during 1968 and 1992. He was simply a GENIUS!
    Those interviews are parts of the multimedia-biography: Manuel Puig: Una aproximación biográfica”.

    Ah! by the way! Puig didn t like the film “Kiss of Spiderwoman” nothing at all. when he saw it, he said: “La Hurt is so bad, that propably will win the Oscar!” And so he did! :=)
    lots of saludos from Buenos Aires
    Gerd