HOLLYWOOD—For those who love any of the “Real Housewives” on TV, there are now Real Housewives, live, and singing and dancing, in Toluca Lake, just as delightfully vapid as their TV counterparts. “The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake: The Musical” is appropriately full of fluff and pomposity, nothing more, maybe even a little less, which is as it should be.
These women, whether created for the stage, or exposing their reality on TV, all prove to be lacking more than their excess dictates. On the stage, one can hope for more, since there’s always a dream that the stage will elevate, rather than aspire to, but this production won’t take you to that higher plane. Toluca Lake, after all, isn’t known for its heightened topography.
“The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake: The Musical” opens with an establishing shot: a beautiful stage set, strikingly decorated with classy lattice panels and offset with cushioned insets, designed by Stephen Gifford. The lighting is dramatically filtered through the slats, and the onstage drama effectively lit by Jean-Yves Tessier. From this stylish décor, the five women of Toluca Lake burst dynamically forth onto the stage, and fight for dominance. The “Rules,” such as they are, are initially displayed on an overhead projection, clearly set to be broken. These women are like family, and, like family, they fight amongst themselves, vacation together, and share each other’s mates. What could be more heartwarming?
The musical housewives (book, music and lyrics by Molly Bell) start with only a smattering of song, mostly sung by Joanne. Then the songs, and the staging, cascade along, often culminating in a fever-pitch crescendo, pushed up like their “pampered tushes.” The five femme fatales float effortlessly from one number to the next. They grow on you as the evening progresses, moving with grace and ease, smiles and beauty, manufactured though it all may be.
Penny (Jenna Coker-Jones) is the short, ball-of-fire-and-brimstone Christian, Lulu (Anita Barone), the mysterious one, with an affected accent, Beezus (Cynthia Ferrer), the older, philanthropic matriarch, Babette (Adrienne Visnic), the sex kitten in the leopard prints, and best friend to, finally, Joanne (Meredith Patterson), the perfect-in-pink blonde, who’s been handed the baton of “head housewife,” given over by the now seemingly deceased Poppy. Poppy knew to get the hell out of Dodge.
Or Toluca Lake. Molly Bell, clearly wrote this show with the intent for it to be picked up in Anytown, USA, adaptable at any time. A clever concept, but it could benefit from a few more specifics that might shout out the locale. But “The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake” is a fun place to be. The Greek-chorus style is used to tongue-in-cheek effect in the “Pampered Tush” scene, and there’s a lively Bollywood dance, an IV-drip number, and a parade of silly dog hats, all crisply choreographed by Roger Castellano. Especially enjoyable too, amidst all the women, is “The Man,” whimsically portrayed by Marc Ginsburg. He has a blast portraying all the men in the lives of the women, yo-yoing back and forth seamlessly.
The more we learn of their foibles, their affinity for Pinot Grigio and expensive shoes, and their weighty credos, such as, “New nose, new outlook,” the more we love the women we’re happy not to be. The payoff of the real housewives’ concept might be that, by viewing the underbelly of the rich and privileged, we can come around to feeling superior, in one’s perhaps less-than-affluent state, by realizing we have (hopefully) more depth and, thankfully, more happiness.
“The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake: The Musical” is a perfect fit for the Falcon Theatre, and for the directorial talent of Roger Bean (“The Marvelous Wonderettes”), as the theatre, and the show, are both intimate, yet brilliantly polished. This makes for a true night on the town—the Toluca Lake-adjacent Burbank–in all its glory. The Falcon Theatre house is full and bustling, parking is easy, ticket prices affordable, hot dining spots abound nearby…life is good in Burbank/Toluca Lake, and this chic little ditty, “The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake,” is well worth a visit.
Slightly off in their seeming perfections, these not-so-real housewives allow us to feel that sense of superiority, much like the TV franchise. Though they sing “My life’s amazing,” and “I’m amazing,” there’s that guilty little tickle of pleasure we feel in the audience as we exit, secretly thinking, “No, you are not… but, thank God I am,” and isn’t that a great way to spend an evening?
Falcon Theatre & Roger Bean Productions
THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF TOLUCA LAKE: THE MUSICAL
Book, Music & Lyrics by Molly Bell
Directed by Roger Bean
Arrangements and Additional Music by Dolores Duran-Cefalu
Opening Night: April 1, 2016
EXTENDED to May 1, 2016
Wednesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m.
Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank, CA 91505
(818) 955-8101 or www.falcontheatre.com