The contrast between sexy, blond E.G. Daily parading across the Court Theater stage in bra and panties and her kid-oriented career voicing Babe the pig, Tommy Pickles of “Rugrats” and Buttercup of “Power Puff Girls” is enough to make her a controversial and offbeat figure. In this world premiere, one-woman musical, the versatile Daily outshines a script that either races through the most fascinating anecdotes or dwells too repetitively on her desperate, damaged ego.
It’s true she has a legitimate beef, coping with a faithless father and a mother who hammers away at her, “Why aren’t you at the Academy Awards? Why aren’t you singing at the Grammys? Why aren’t you married? Why, why, why?”
Daily conveys her litany of personal detours — which include anorexia and promiscuity (“30, 40, 60, 70 men and two women … one doesn’t count because she turned into a man”) — by utilizing the Babe voice to convey her inner child. She also points out that she initially rejected the idea of a voiceover career: “I want to be an actress. … I want to be seen.”
Most actors are wracked with insecurity, and Daily’s people-pleasing nature and her declaration, “I wanted everyone in the world to want me,” convincingly represent a performer’s panic. Sixteen songs underscore the theme, ranging from “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “I Need a Hero” to the Sonny & Cher classic “I Got You Babe.”
Some tunes are too truncated, ending before they can make a vivid impression, but Daily (who had a No. 1 Billboard dance hit with “Say It, Say It”) is a gritty vocal stylist, combining mellowness and gravel, and she does an appealing rendition of “Paparazzi Life.”
Sal Romeo’s brisk, athletic direction and Jake Mason and Kathlyne Pham’s effervescent choreography spark the numbers.
Advertised as a saga of song, sex and scandal, “Listen Closely” delivers when introducing a masochistic rocker/lover with cigarette burns covering his chest. He extracts blood and squirts it all over himself and then turns stuffily moral, threatening to do drugs if she wears a bathing suit during a modeling session.
Tale of her relationship with Jon-Erik Hexum, rising star of TV series “Voyagers” who died after accidentally shooting himself with a prop gun, misses its emotional mark.
More engrossing is a story everyone waits to hear — her marriage to Rick Salomon. This episode, culminating in Salomon’s infamous, globally distributed sex video with Paris Hilton and his marriage to Shannen Doherty, contains the evening’s best scene: When Daily says, “If you don’t get some help with your drug problem, I’m going to divorce you,” he stuns her by saying, “I’m outta here.”
Daily’s career struggles could be embellished, and her recovery from self-hate happens too abruptly with motherhood and therapy. The tales in general melt into each other and could benefit from stronger, more conclu-sive buttons.
Daily’s confessions are courageous and honest and would pack greater punch if she underplayed her desire to constantly mingle them with a positive message. She’s got a natural edge, and too much sentimental uplift holds down her funky, forceful talent.