Thursday, June 18, 2015

Yep, "Are You There God? It's Me Karen Carpenter" is just about as fun as it sounds!

Abbey Roads (and EmilyRose Frasca and Shermona Mitchelll) in Are You There God? It's Me Karen Carpenter (Leanna Karg and Bob Snell)
Are You There God? It’s Me, Karen Carpenter
STAGEright (at Richard Hugo House)
Through June 27, 2015

The mash-up of the Judy Blume book, Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret, and Carpenter songs is an irresistible draw! And ticket sales show that and are going fast! Just the title lets you know you’re likely to have a lot of laughs.

Certainly, Are You There God? It's Me Karen Carpenter could also be a train wreck, but thankfully it’s not. It really is just about as much fun as it sounds like it should be. The kick ass cast, headed by talented EmilyRose Frasca as Margaret, she of many musical performances on stages around town, sings Carpenter songs and dresses in silly costumes and sillier wigs, and performs a story in front of a screen where Barbie dolls mimic all the action in front of you.
 
Written by Dane Whitlock, a guy who also wrote scripts like Little House of the Prairie-oke and I Totally Know What You Did Last Donna Summer, mash-ups are “his thing.” In the main, he does it with smart juxtapositioning of his two choices. I have no idea what the Blume book was about, but I’m told the script follows that book much more closely than I understood.

Margaret (Frasca) is an eleven (almost twelve) year old girl who is insecure and trying to fit in to a new class, and gets invited by neighbor Nancy (Olivia Lee) to be in her special club. Also in the club are Janie (Shermona Mitchell) and Gretchen (Abbey Roads) and they all pledge to tell each other all about when they get their periods and to wear bras and to keep a “boy book” of crushes.

Apparently, in the book, they are a group of lovely supportive friends. In the mash-up, Nancy gets a bit more of a snarky treatment and kind of turns into a villain. Probably to increase the laughs. And it is funny, except for some occasional pushing of the envelope waaaaaay too far: why does Nancy have a penchant for flashing her boobs? Lee is gorgeous, so she’s fine to look at, but… why?

The line between humor that works and that doesn’t often lies between whether a joke has a foundation or not. If humor isn’t “earned,” it’s just a joke and less likely to be successful. It’s virtually impossible to know in this play whether a joke is in the script or not. But knowing director Brendan Mack a bit, I wouldn’t put it past him to have tried to find anything funny he could to cram into the show. Brendan, if that’s true, sometimes less is funnier! But oh well, so what if a few jokes fail.

Mostly the silliness totally works and there are unicorns and twinkly stars on sticks and wonderfully silly choreography by Elizabeth Richmond Posluns. The music direction by Josh Zimmerman and the onstage band work well to put over the Karen Carpenter songs. The set design by Brandon Estrella has some fun ramps and stairs and levels which the cast use for unusual entrances and exits.

Let’s hope all the sound and microphone issues get fixed. It’s a shame when those great voices can’t be heard.

There are some key funny moments among lots of fun moments, including when Stephanie Graham plays sports player Barb Strutts, (and looks remarkably like Karen Carpenter), Emily Feliciano’s perfect rendition of a popular boy, and Cedric Wright’s portrayal of Moose. But full points go to Abbey Roads, with a perfect wig and her adorable reactions, particularly to being the first one to get her period.

This is the best summer fare I have seen yet! For more information, go to www.seattlestageright.org or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1322489 or call 800-838-3006.