Review: ‘Twist of Fate’

The book -- sharp, involving and loosely based on a real incident -- revolves around fictional Gypsy fortune-teller Dominique St. Marie (Lisa Raggio) working in Los Angeles when soothsaying was illegal. St. Marie is trying to teach the business to her headstrong teenage daughter, Olivia (Tia Texada), when an undercover policeman (Josh Cruze) arrests St. Marie.

The book — sharp, involving and loosely based on a real incident — revolves around fictional Gypsy fortune-teller Dominique St. Marie (Lisa Raggio) working in Los Angeles when soothsaying was illegal. St. Marie is trying to teach the business to her headstrong teenage daughter, Olivia (Tia Texada), when an undercover policeman (Josh Cruze) arrests St. Marie.

Her court-appointed lawyer (Dan Gerrity) finds she’s determined to fight the law — and he falls in love with her. That causes problems with his fiancee (Donna Cherry), a meticulous TV executive. When the undercover officer is shot and killed as St. Marie predicted, and Olivia, disgusted with anything Gypsy, is running around with the wrong boy (Manley Pope), St. Marie’s situation worsens.

The music by Ron Abel and lyrics by book author Lissa Levin are complex and multilayered, advancing the story more often than merely underscoring a moment. As directed by Ron Link, with choreography by Valerie Landsburg, each song is an event.

Link, too, lends a sense of sensuality and theatricality to the effort and connects the characters’ hopes to a feeling of fear.

Raggio and Gerrity anchor their characters with charisma and grace, even as they joust with wit. Texada imbues the daughter with an oh-so-sure fight for independence. When she sings “That’s Where I Belong” in duet with Raggio, it’s clear she’s an exceptional find within the impressive cast.

Set designer Cara Hoepner brings much artistry to her craft, creating an Old-World Gypsy feel and tying in the live band, high on its own platform, to the action below. The tiered staging areas allow a viewer’s imagination to leap to different locations quickly.

Ken Booth’s lighting fits in with the unique production design. Costume designer Judith Brewer Curtis must have been in creative heaven in coming up with so many expressive outfits.

Completing the lively ensemble is the band, surrounded by tires and steel drums and feeling very much a part of the whole.

A spiritual adviser might tell all these folks larger theaters and a cast album is in their future.

Twist of Fate

(Tiffany Theatre, West Hollywood; 99 seats; $ 25 top)

Production

Mindy Schwartz presents a musical comedy in two acts, with book and lyrics by Lissa Levin, music by Ron Abel; producer, Schwartz; director, Ron Link; choreographer, Valerie Landsburg.

Creative

Sets, Cara Hoepner; lighting, Ken Booth; costumes, Judith Brewer Curtis; sound design, Jon Gottlieb; musical direction and arrangements, Abel; conductor, Stephen Bates. Opened Dec. 1, 1995; reviewed Dec. 2; runs through Jan. 30. Running time, 2 hrs. 10 min.

Cast

Cast: Lisa Raggio (Dominique St. Marie), Dan Gerrity (Michael Boardman), Tia Texada (Olivia St. Marie), Donna Cherry (Brooke Mieck), Michelle Mais (Eva Hernandez and middle-aged woman), Laura Soltis (stripper and career woman), Josh Cruze (Agaptito Hernandez), Manley Pope (Brandon, sailor), Jow Warren Davis (Robby Cantz and detective), Daniella Sando (Vivian). Band: Stephen Bates (keyboards), Jeff Briggs (guitar), Randy Landas (bass), John Harvey (drums), Ezra Kliger (violin). If the words "new musical" at a small theater often provoke shudders, "Twist of Fate" should change that reaction: Expect word of mouth to create standing room only.
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