There really is nothing sadder than an aging rock 'n' roll diva clinging to the dream after years of getting nowhere. Jackie, the heroine (of a sort) in Cheri Lovedog's new musical (of a sort) Prey for Rock & Roll, is turning 35, and after 10 years of her all-chick band "Clam Dandy" being overlooked by record producers, questioning whether or not to pack it in and "get a real job."
Following in the footsteps of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Lovedog's new rock musical has an interesting premise, and with a firmer focus and stronger guiding hand could be nearly as potent as that recent long-run success.
But as it currently stands, Prey for Rock & Roll was not written or directed with the cohesive sense of purpose that made Hedwig such an extraordinary (and commercial) piece of theatre. Lovedog has not been able to resist the first-time playwright's penchant for throwing every stock situation and character into the mix, and the production, under Robin Whitehouse's unfocused direction, wandered aimlessly from subplot to subplot. Lovedog's driving, earsplitting classic rock score notwithstanding, the angry promise of the idea got overwhelmed by the soap-opera machinations of the overplotted story.
As Jackie, Lovedog had a way with a sarcastic zinger, and her likable, matter-of-fact stage presence effectively masked her shortcomings as an actress. As the dying lead guitarist Faith, Jan Tilley, while a terrific musician, did not possess a sparkling stage persona. Except when riffing on her guitar, she appeared self-conscious and flat, her melodramatic death scene made unintentionally funny by her inability to meet the dramatic demands imposed upon her.
As the group's young drummer Sally, c.c. seymour was touching in a difficult role. As the trashy bass guitarist Tracy, Jackie Kamm, who was so good in last season's Watching and Waiting, once again displayed that natural ability that causes one to sit up and take notice - she is a damn good actress. Likewise, Lou Sumrall, as Sally's ex-con brother, commanded attention with every subtle movement - his role may have been one-dimensional, but his performance was rich with intelligent detail. As Tracy's no-good boyfriend, Eric Wippo was whiny and obnoxious, hardly convincing as a bullying, macho-pig rapist. (Watch those wrist movements, girl.)
The smoky, grunge atmosphere of CBGB's was the perfect setting, the uncredited lighting was serviceable, and Tina Montalbo's costumes and "styling" gave the characters a life that wasn't necessarily inherent in the writing.
When Lovedog, as Jackie, dropped all pretense and addressed herself and her fears directly to the audience, Prey for Rock & Roll came closest to fulfilling its potential for another ground-breaking musical. Unfortunately, those quiet, introspective moments that so clearly pointed the way to what the show could be were few and far between, buried in a jumble of noise that did not service the score, the play or the performers. And that may be the one thing sadder than any aging rock 'n' roll diva ever could be.
Book: 0 Music: 1 Lyrics: 1
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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita