Review: ‘Victor/Victoria’

Well, she looks great in a tux. Raquel Welch, donning the tails passed down from Julie Andrews to Liza Minnelli and back to Julie, suits the costumes better than she does the vocal and acting requirements of "Victor/Victoria." At best a pleasantly passable singer (and at worst a singer who passes over melody), Welch does little to move this tired, star-driven musical beyond its own mediocrity. Long absent from the New York stage, Welch might initially draw old fans and the merely curious, but she'd better do it fast --- this show seems to be on its last sequined leg.

Well, she looks great in a tux. Raquel Welch, donning the tails passed down from Julie Andrews to Liza Minnelli and back to Julie, suits the costumes better than she does the vocal and acting requirements of “Victor/Victoria.” At best a pleasantly passable singer (and at worst a singer who passes over melody), Welch does little to move this tired, star-driven musical beyond its own mediocrity. Long absent from the New York stage, Welch might initially draw old fans and the merely curious, but she’d better do it fast — this show seems to be on its last sequined leg.

If Andrews projected chic sophistication (which, in truth, was entirely at odds with the pandering of both the musical and its direction by Blake Edwards) and Minnelli flashed her trademark spunky neurosis, Welch goes for glamour. Perhaps she finds it, but not without sacrificing what little vulnerability and depth the role has to offer.

Welch does have a certain chemistry with her audience (certainly more than she shares with her co-stars) and at times has a decent voice. But “at times” isn’t enough to carry a Broadway musical, and when her chops fail they fail badly. At the reviewed performance, her second-act love duet with Michael Nouri, entitled “Almost a Love Song,” was barely a song of any kind, particularly the kind with a melody.

Granted, this musical, which mistakes sound effects for farce (and vulgarity for glitz) only pretends to showcase its star in a good light. No pretty costume can compensate for crotch-grabbing humor, poorly staged fights and push-button sentiment. Well into its second year (thanks to Andrews’ sustained likability and Minnelli’s star power) “Victor/Victoria” has settled into a rote compendium of comic mugging, particularly noticeable in the vocal affectations (pinched and prissy) of Tony Roberts’ Toddy, the gay man who befriends the down-and-out Victoria and transforms her into cabaret sensation Victor.

Besides Welch, newcomers to the cast include an amiable Tom Sardinia as the closeted gay bodyguard and, replacing Rachel York, an over-the-top Tara O’Brien as dim-bulb gun moll Norma.

In lesser (much lesser) roles, Todd Hunter (as a jazz singer who intro’s a Welch number) and Sally Ann Tumas (as a street singer who reprises the “Paris By Night” song) display the vocal talent and, particularly in Hunter’s case, the sensual pizzazz lacking elsewhere. Look hard — they come and go quickly, which, barring the unforeseen, might also prove true for this latest incarnation of “Victor/Victoria.”

Victor/Victoria

Marquis Theater, New York; 1,601 seats; $75 top.
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