It’s an intriguing notion to tell the story of Western gunslingers Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday — culminating in the iconic 1881 shootout at the O.K. Corral — with an all-femme cast of 11. Intriguing, yes; but this concept doesn’t allow us to see, know or understand Wyatt Earp. The authors and director of chamber-tuner “I Married Wyatt Earp” do put four of the gals in black hats for the final fusillade, but that doesn’t illuminate matters. For all the talk about the men, Earp and his brethren remain offstage and unexplored.
The intention, clearly, is to show frontier life through the viewpoint of frontier women; the authors present the novel notion that most of the girls were former prostitutes. They fight amongst themselves, they bond, some die. And they sing; boy do they sing, innumerable songs with music by Michelle Brourman (whose credits include multiple installments of the kid-friendly animated dinosaur video series “The Land Before Time”).
But when push comes to shove, and when the men start beating the women or shooting each other, the action is necessarily offstage. In some cases the authors have their protagonist — the one who married Wyatt Earp, looking back at 1881 Tombstone from 1944 Hollywood — gruffly impersonate a man by barking out a few lines, so unconvincingly as to be almost laughable.
Carolyn Mignini plays the elder Josie Earp like someone’s evil stepmother, having glamorized her husband’s legend, at the expense of others, for decades. Yet Mishaela Faucher, as the younger Josie, is clearly our heroine: brave, smart, and honorable. (The little-known Faucher is also the finest performer on the stage, and quite a find.) Which makes for a faulty mix; Josie is our hero in the flashbacks and the murderous villainess in real time. Do we like her or not? Whether this is a problem of acting, writing or direction is unclear; probably all three.
Heather Mac Rae and Stephanie Palumbo are convincing as the older and younger Allie Earp, sister-in-law to Wyatt. Anastasia Barzee does well as the laudanum-addicted former Mrs. Wyatt, as does Laura Hanken as Earp’s young niece.
But the book by Thomas Edward West and Sheilah Rae is cluttered by those 11n women, as is Cara Reichel’s staging and Joe Barros’ choreography. (Reichel and Barros artistic directors of the two producing organizations.) Rae’s lyrics do not impress, nor does most of the music, despite a professional four-piece orchestration by Bruce Coughlin. Show has been in development since 1994, with readings and workshops peopled by folk like Graciela Daniele, Carol Lawrence and Tovah Feldshuh.
A few musical moments show signs of life — like “Room to Breathe,” a second act duet — and the show is at its best when all 11 characters are singing. But one has to wonder when they have Holliday’s mistress (Ariela Morgenstern) — having been beaten, pummeled and left in the gutter by the sheriff — sing a big comedy number complete with Hungarian step-dancing.Musical numbers: “Don’t Blame Me for That,” “Unpacking Dreams,” “Nothing Like the Girls at Home,” “When a Maiden Makes a Promise,” “I Ain’t Goin’ Back,” “High Class Attraction,” “Mama, oh Mama,” “They Got Snakes Out Here,” “Pins and Needles,” “Didya Hear?” “Little Black Sheep,” “It’s Different This Time,” “In the Cards,” “Room to Breathe,” “The Dust,” “Games Are Everywhere,” “I’d Do It All Again,” “Stand Our Ground,” “Shootout,” “All These Years”