Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Remember Milli Vanilli? If you see Girl You Know It's True, you will!

Andrew Lee Creech and Corey Spruill as Rob and Fab (photo by Ian Johnston)

Girl You Know It’s True
Theatre Off Jackson
Through April 5

Warning: If you see this show, Milli Vanilli songs WILL get stuck in your head! Especially if you grew up with them. The Stay Up Late Show and Theatre Off Jackson are co-producing Girl You Know It’s True by Bixby Elliot. If you’ve seen Milli Vanilli, Rob and Fab will make you die laughing. If you have never seen them, this production will introduce you to why it’s so funny that they are intertwined in this play.

The play focuses on a playwright trying desperately to get some recognition for his writing (suspiciously named Bixby) and his husband who really thinks the writing is a “hobby” but doesn’t want to hurt Bixby’s feelings. Bixby gets desperate enough that he starts submitting his work with different personas, and the one of Sid, an African-American lesbian, gets the attention from a prominent New York company that Bixby has been craving.

So, Bixby hires an African-American actress to play the part of his alter-ego playwright Sid to meet the theater-folk and get him the contract. She is so successful at the charade that her own ego gets involved and she thinks she can write the next play herself!

It’s very easy to understand that frustration, and an award-winning movie encapsulates that same idea. Tootsie walks very similar pathways toward lying to get ahead and what happens when it actually works. The production, here, is very fun, with some major talent, though the script is a bit over-written and a good slimming spa treatment would do it a world of good.

Along with the basic story, we get the real history of Milli Vanilli from their unmasking, backward through their winning of the Grammy, back to how they started lip-syncing songs in the first place. Andrew Lee Creech and Corey Spruill do fantastic work as the duo, though Creech (Rob) gets the most personality. They are called upon to recreate period choreography (with help from Diana Cardiff) to great effect. And are costumed outrageously well by Scarlett O’Hairdye.

Just to hammer home the point, various frauds are introduced, like Christophe Rocancourt who claimed to be a Rockefeller and scammed his way into millions of dollars, Laura Albert who wrote as a man, JT LeRoy, and was sued for signing her pen name to a contract, and celebrated jazz musician Billy Tipton (Dorothy Lucille Tipton). Barbi Beckett, back on stage, thankfully, after a hiatus to “produce people,” gets the job of portraying multiple characters who are not as they seem.

The strong cast is headed by Ian Bell, who plays the somewhat hapless Bixby, with Andrew Tasakos as his almost-caring husband. Rebecca M. Davis plays the down-on-her-luck actor who lets success go to her head. Josh List and Daniel Christensen do some hilarious work as various characters and Michael Blaylock and Scott Shoemaker have an unfortunate role that wastes their time and confuses the ending. Many of these fine folks work with Ian and his Brown Derby movie spoofs.

A terrific minimalist set by Robin Macartney takes curtains to a whole new level of utility. Burlap with a few pops of color and we can go around the world. Sound support by Ed Hawkins and lights by Patti West provide the rest of the transformations. Directing honors are also by Ed Hawkins.

The overall effect, especially with interludes about Milli Vanilli, is a very fun evening. You might want to avail yourself of the specialized drinks they’ve prepared at TOJ to make it even funnier. They can help you forget that the script is heavy-handed, and maybe encourage you to just sing along.

For more information, go to www.theatreoffjackson.org or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/518052 or call 800-838-3006.