Review: ‘Valley of the Dolls’

As the fate-plagued heroines, Eliza Coyle (Anne Welles), Kate Flannery (Neely O'Hara) and Lizzie Murray (Jennifer North) have certainly done their homework as they lovingly skewer the film performances of Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke and Sharon Tate, respectively.

As the fate-plagued heroines, Eliza Coyle (Anne Welles), Kate Flannery (Neely O’Hara) and Lizzie Murray (Jennifer North) have certainly done their homework as they lovingly skewer the film performances of Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke and Sharon Tate, respectively.

As the onstage narrator, Coyle has the prerequisite sophistication and beauty to be believable as Anne, a secretary who is suddenly swept from steno pad to stardom as a television pitch woman. She exhibits a wonderful comedic flare, holding a poignant dramatic pose and then diving head first into a trash can to retrieve Neely O’Hara’s discarded “dolls” (pills). The statuesque Murray is achingly reminiscent of the late Tate’s Jennifer, all wide-eyed, monosyllabic innocence, yet very aware of the value of her “assets” as she deadpans her way from showgirl to porn queen, all for the sake of love.

Even given the fact she had a lot to work with in the persona of Duke/O’Hara, Flannery gives new meaning to the term caricature. Contorting her face and body with almost every syllable, Flannery is a sight gag just with her entrances and exits. By play’s end, she has the audience howling and chanting along with her, “I’m Neely O’Hara … I’m Neely O’Hara.”

Also acquitting themselves well are Booker as Neely’s long-suffering husband Mel Anderson, Michael Irpino as the effervescent designer Ted Casablanca, Layne Beamer’s doomed pop star Tony Pilar, and Jessica Hughes as Tony’s hard-as-nails sister Miriam.

A major disappointment, however, is Benjamin Zook in drag as the aging superstar Helen Lawson. Zook plows through the role (portrayed on the screen by Susan Hayward), failing to capture even the slightest nuance of the character he is supposedly satirizing.

Special credit should go to lighting designers Jim Jatho and Terry Jackson, as well as the sound design of Curt Anderson/Tree Fort Studios for managing to move this practically setless production along through the myriad scenes and locations of the film with almost seamless efficiency.

Valley of the Dolls


Valley of the Dolls (The Coast Playhouse: 99 seats; $ 12 top) D.W. Fairbanks presents the Theatre-A-Go-Go! Production of "Valley of the Dolls," a play in two acts, adapted from Dorothy Kingsly's screenplay for the 20th Century Fox film, based on the novel by Jacqueline Susann, directed by Tom Booker. Producers, Booker, Jessica Hughes and Jon Kean; lighting design, Jim Jatho & Terry Jackson; costume design, Heather Stanfield; sound design, Curt Anderson & Tree Fort Studios; art design, Lisa Galipeau. Opened and reviewed Feb. 29, 1996; closes March 31. Running time: 2 hours, 15 min.


Lighting, but making ample use of John Williams' film score, director Tom Booker and his talented ensemble plumb the depths of the precious Kingsly/Susann dialogue and scale the satiric heights in their impressions of the original film portrayals. Along the way, they still manage to tell the tale of three young damsels and their star-crossed quests to obtain the finer things in life: drugs, fame, fortune, drugs, sex, alcohol and drugs.


Cast: Eliza Coyle (Anne Wells), Kate Flannery (Neely O'Hara), Lizzie Murray (Jennifer North), Benjamin Zook (Helen Lawson), Jon Kean (Lyon Burke), Layne Beamer (Tony Polar), Jessica Hughes (Miriam Polar), Tom Booker (Mel Anderson), Michael Irpino (Ted Casablanca), Alex Leydenfrost (Kevin Gilmore), Joe Dietl (Mr. Belemy), Nan Schmid (Miss Steinberg) , Lisa Galipeau (ensemble), Heather Stanfield (ensemble). You really had to have seen that thoroughly self-conscious 1967 film epic "Valley of the Dolls" to enjoy the over-the-top caricatures that abound in this campy stage romp by Theatre-A-Go-Go. With minimal sets and
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