The gorgeous voice and charisma of Dale Kristien is the only bright spot in this mess of a musical, revisited after an Off Broadway run 20 years ago and mounted in an under-rehearsed and poorly directed production.

The gorgeous voice and charisma of Dale Kristien is the only bright spot in this mess of a musical, revisited after an Off Broadway run 20 years ago and mounted in an under-rehearsed and poorly directed production.

The musical has a curious, if fleeting, premise. A group of Beverly Hills society women (changed from the Long Island ladies of the N.Y. version) set out to perform a 19th century American chestnut called “Fashion: or Life in New York” by Anna Cora Mowatt, one of the few women dramatists in America at the time.

Unfortunately, female playwrights of 19th-century America weren’t much better than their male counterparts. The staple of the period were drawing-room comedies in the “French fashion.”

This musical is apparently an attempt to parody not only that style of theater, but also the tradition of ladies’ amateur performances. Neither subject exactly cries out for parody.

Book writer Anthony Stimac, missed whatever opportunity he might have had to breathe some vitality into this material.

There is no attempt to present full characters, either in the society ladies or in the roles they play. The tone of the piece is humorless, the staging practically non-existent.

Veteran performers like Mary Jo Catlett, Lorna Patterson, Christina Saffran, Henrietta Valor and Marcia Wallace, along with Elkin Antoniou, Jenifer Chatfield and Marjory Graue, all work like good troupers. Frank Ferrante has fine energy, although he falls back a bit too often on his skill at Groucho Marx impressions.

But the clarity of Kristien’s voice and the lovely, ethereal precision of her acting blot out the rest of the show for a moment.

The Alex Theater and its producing organization, Theatre Corp. of America, chose this as a last-minute replacement for “Sophisticated Ladies,” but there is really no excuse for foisting this pap on auds.

Fashion

(Alex Theatre, Glendale; 1,460 seats; $ 42 top)

Production

Theatre Corp. of America presents a musical in two acts, with music by Don Pippin, lyrics by Steve Brown, book by Anthony Stimac; director, Stimac.

Creative

Sets, Gary Wissmann; costumes, Neil Bieff; lighting, Kevin Mahan; sound, Frederick Boot; music director, Sam Kriger; choreographer, Lois Englund. Opened July 23, 1994; reviewed July 24; runs through Aug. 7. Running time: 1 hr., 50 mins.

Cast

Edwina/Frankson ... Elkin Antoniou Evelyn/Mrs. Pearl Tiffany ... Mary Jo Catlett Rita/Seraphina ... Jenifer Chatfield Pat/Mr. Anthony Tiffany ... Christina Saffran Richard/Count Jolimaitre ... Frank Ferrante Kim/Colonel Howard ... Marjory Graue Marion/Gertrude ... Dale Kristien Jean/Millinete ... Lorna Patterson Nan/Adam Trueman ... Henrietta Valor Suzanne/Joseph Snobson ... Marcia Wallace
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