Star-spangled soprano

Wonder Woman: The Musical

Written and directed by Elizabeth Whitney
The Ethyl Eichelberger Solo Show Project
The Duplex
61 Christopher St. (212/255-5438; Wed. only at 7:00)
Non-union production (closes Apr. 27)
Review by Charles Battersby

Plenty of people have fond childhood memories of Linda Carter, as Wonder Woman, fighting for her rights in her satin tights. Elizabeth Whitney has made a cabaret act based on that nostalgia: Wonder Woman: The Musical.

It might be asked why she focuses almost exclusively on the TV show's three seasons and ignores 64 years of comic books; which is a lot like expressing love for a single facet of a jewel, yet never conceiving that other sides might have something to offer too. Regardless, Whitney starts out by explaining to the audience that, when she was child, she wanted to be Linda Carter's sidekick, Wonder Girl. After this prolog, the audience is propelled into an entirely different show, where Whitney is Wonder Woman. Here, "Wonder Woman" has retired from superheroing and is on tour with a cabaret show. Wonder Woman proceeds to sing parodies of hit songs, with lyrics changed to fit her life as an empowered woman, a lesbian sex symbol, and a drag icon. This concept will certainly go over well at the Duplex, but plenty of other writers have examined the sex lives of superheroes ("Mallrats" anyone?), and the Linda Carter show was essentially a self-parody (making further parody redundant).

It was easy to imagine Whitney as a young woman who used to dress up in a homemade Wonder Girl outfit, but it was a little harder to believe she actually was Wonder Woman. A perky blonde soprano, Whitney was simply unconvincing as the super-powered Amazon. She also wore an outfit that only vaguely resembled Wonder Woman's uniform. There might be a reason why Whitney chose to wear this costume, when there are plenty of spectacular off-the-rack Wonder Woman costumes out there, but the dialog doesn't provide the audience with that reason.

That said, there actually are a few funny lines here, plus some kitschy in-jokes ("Suffering Sappho!"), and Whitney did have a certain charm. That charm, however, would be better displayed in a more cohesive show. Wonder Woman: The Musical is scattered and occasionally tries to mix in some serious tones, which don't mesh with its overall campiness. Then there's the fact that it flagrantly ignores Wonder Woman's continuity. Since when does she have X-Ray vision!?!

Another example of the show's fractured tone is a lengthy segment where Wonder Woman reads some fan letters. One turns out to be from a young Elizabeth Whitney, a clever way to connect the prolog to the rest of the show (and the only connection). The other letters are the same sort of comic-book jokes used by writers like Kevin Smith or J. M. DeMatteis (e.g., "How do you fly the invisible jet, if you can't see the controls?"). It was almost possible to imagine Silent Bob or The Blue Beetle writing these letters, and sneaking them into Wonder Woman's Inbox at the Justice League Embassy.

There are two kinds of Wonder Woman fans: The ones who love Wonder Woman and have a stack of comic books to prove it. Then there are the Wonder Woman fans who merely love their childhood memories of Linda Carter, and have never touched a Wonder Woman comic book. The former might do well to avoid this show, but the latter may find it of interest.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: N/A
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Charles Battersby