Daisy in Disguise


Book and Lyrics by Stacie Lents

Music by Simon Gray

Directed by David Hilder

Musical Direction by Simon Gray

Vital Theatre Company (www.vitaltheatre.org)

The McGinn Cazale Theatre, 2162 Broadway, 4th Floor

Non-union (through November 16, 2008)

Review by Judd Hollander


Parents should not try to make their children into something they’re not and one should never judge anything at face value. Interesting points, but as presented in Vital Theatre Company’s Daisy in Disguise, just about every possible message is lost in the mawkish script and one-dimensional or half-written characters.


Having moved to a new city, grade-schooler Daisy (Angie Perez), who can play a mean game of basketball, is eagerly looking forward to starting at her new school. However her mother (Rebecca Lieb Walsh), wants Daisy to wear a fancy pink dress on her first day there, a prospect that causes Daisy to react with horror. Eventually, to please her mom, Daisy dons the dress sand heads off to school where, not surprisingly the day is a total disaster. No one will play basketball with her, figuring she’s too girly and for such a sport (plus, she’s named after a flower). While she does make friends with a two-girl clique - Molly and Holly (Stephanie Torns and Bethany James) who have a thing for jump rope - Daisy would much rather be on the basketball court. When Daisy comes home she gets into an argument with her mother, storms off, gets caught in a rainstorm and runs into the school for shelter. When she wakes up the next morning she finds herself in the boys’ locker room and comes up with the idea of changing herself from Daisy to “David” so no one will laugh at her anymore.


In no time at all “David” attracts the eye of basketball playing student Oscar (Norman Payne) - who pooh-poohed her talents when he met her as a girl - and Daisy finds herself happily in her element. However complications soon emerge which threaten to expose the truth. Daisy’s mother is frantically searching for her daughter, as is the rest of the school faculty, and “David” can’t come up with straight answers about where he comes from and why he knows so much about the missing girl. Additionally “David” unexpectedly finds himself the target of Holly’s affections, much to the consternation of her best friend Polly. The entire matter cumulates in a basketball game where “David” and Oscar face off against Polly and Molly while Daisy’s mom looks on.


There’s certainly potential here, but the entire enterprise is undone by Lent’s lazy script, giving the proceedings a rather amateurish air. Additionally, there is almost no depth to any of the characters, making it hard to root for or empathize with them.


The biggest problem is the piece continually talks down to its audience, giving a feeling that most of the production is one big joke. The adult male characters (all played by Ross Hewitt) come off as rather foolish, either doing extremely long pregnant pauses or having “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” moments with the audience, such as when the coach hears Daisy coughing while hiding in the locker room and Oscar convinces him that he’s hearing the floorboards creaking. The entire scene is played too broadly to be believable and too awkwardly to be funny. A later scene has the coach referring to Daisy’s mother as “Mrs. Daisy’s Mom,” which seems a little ridiculous (could it have been that hard to think up a last name for the character?). Another example of lazy writing happens when Polly and Holly are paired up against “David” and Oscar in a basketball competition for “Game Day.” While it’s highly possible such a pairing could happen in a grade-school event, one would think that Molly and Polly would have changed from dresses to something more suitable for such an activity (and also lose most of their accoutrements).


Lents also breaks a cardinal rule when it comes to musicals: specifically, don’t insert songs in places where they’re not needed. A case in point is a confrontation scene between Daisy and her mother regarding that terrible first day at school. What could have been told in only a few moments of dialogue, is instead stretched out continually in song with no new information added in the process


Perez is fun as Daisy, but with no real foundation to the character, other than she wants to play basketball, her portrayal feels terribly one-note. The same is true for Payne as Oscar.  Oscar comes off as a nice guy, but the text reveals no details of who he is or what he’s about. Walsh makes a competent showing as Daisy’s mother, but again there is no real depth to the character. There are hints of a sometimes-contentious relationship between Daisy and her mom, such as when Daisy is surprised to learn that her mom is worried about her after she has gone missing, but this is something that is never really explored.


The most interesting folks in the story are Torns and James as Molly and Polly, experts at jumping rope and accessorizing (one with a signature color of pink, the other, purple). Rather than being the stereotypical cliquish snooty girls, they’re both open and friendly (if a bit ditsy), initially welcoming the pink-dressed clad Daisy into their little circle. There are also several potential trouble spots between Molly and Polly, such as when Molly gets a crush on “David,” with Polly feeling left out in the cold, and aghast at how her friend is reacting, but again, these are issues the script chooses to ignore.


However it should be pointed out that all the actors playing grade-schoolers definitely look the parts, thus requiring no suspension of disbelief in this area.


Lyrics by Lents are okay, if somewhat tired and repetitive at points. Gray’s music is enjoyable. However, Hilder’s direction is often weak, as if not trying to go the extra mile to pull the entire piece together. Many scenes dealing with the Daisy/David issue that need to be played with a sure hand feel more like weak attempts at slapstick, thus seriously weakening the overall effect.


The costumes by Elizabeth Vastola are fine - especially the outfits worn by Molly and Polly-and the set design by David Geinosky is adequate.


Daisy in Disguise presents an interesting idea for a musical, but  the play winds up being a rather big misfire by the usually reliable Vital Theatre Company.


Box Score:


Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Sets: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1


Copyright 2008 by Judd Hollander


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