Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls

Stagehand), Kate Flannery (Neely O'Hara), Jessica Hughes (Miriam Polar), Michael Irpino (Ted Casablanca/

Stagehand), Kate Flannery (Neely O’Hara), Jessica Hughes (Miriam Polar), Michael Irpino (Ted Casablanca/

Chardot), Alex Leydenfrost (Kevin Gilmore), Ken Marino (Tony Polar), Jon Samuel (Lyon Burke), Nan Schmid (Miss Steinberg); Lisa Galipeau, Heather Stanfield.

Broadway might not go for booze and dope, but Off Broadway has a stoned hit with “Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls,” an outrageously campy rendering of the trashy 1967 film about dolls and the dolls who take them. Performing a pared-down version of the movie’s actual Helen Deutsch

Dorothy Kingsley screenplay, a pitch-perfect cast sends the soapy melodrama soaring over the top.

The production certainly could find an audience to justify an extension or transfer beyond the limited run at Circle in the Square (Downtown). Engagement is set to end Sept. 14.

“Dolls” has been brought to the stage by some of the same minds who conceived “The Real Live Brady Bunch,” and although the source material for the new play doesn’t have the recognizability of the ubiquitous Bradys, the mesmerizingly schmaltzy storyline and skillfully hammy performances should win over even those who can’t recite the hoary dialogue along with the cast.

“Dolls,” of course, tells the story of chic Manhattan sophisticates of the 1960s who pop more pills, or dolls, than most hospital wards. Leaving no showbiz cliche untouched, the story follows the ups and downs of Ivy League career gal Anne (Eliza Coyle), Judy Garlandlike starlet Neely O’Hara (Kate Flannery, in a nearly criminal caricature of the film’s Patty Duke) and vacuous bimbo Jennifer (Melissa Christopher) as they take their knocks in love and life.

While most of the cast members expertly send up their film counterparts, drag queen Jackie Beat portrays the aging Broadway diva Helen Lawson in makeup and style reminiscent of Divine. The gambit works just fine. Indeed, the entire production never hits a wrong note, from the faithfully re-created mod costumes to the kitschy low-budget cinematic effects (an onstage stagehand sprinkles snowflakes to simulate the outdoors, for example). The three leads Coyle, Flannery and Christopher couldn’t be better, and the rest of the cast keeps pace. “I’m not nuts,” screams Neely, “I’m just hooked on dolls!” Well said.

Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls

  • Production: A Delsener/Slater Enterprises presentation of the Theatre-A-Go-Go! production of a play in two acts, based on the film script by Helen Deutsch and Dorothy Kingsley. Directed by Tom Booker.
  • Crew: Set, Wade Thomas; costumes, Heather Stanfield and the cast; lighting, Jim Jatho; art direction, Lisa Galipeau; sound, Tree Fort Studios & Curt Anderson; additional sound design, Brian Rich. Executive producer, Ron Delsener; producers, Booker, Jessica Hughes, Jon Kean. Opened Aug. 7, 1996, at Circle in the Square (Downtown). Reviewed Aug. 28; 230 seats; $ 25. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.
  • With: Cast: Jackie Beat (Helen Lawson), Tom Booker (Mel Anderson), Melissa Christopher (Jennifer North), Eliza Coyle (Anne Wells), Joe Dietl (Mr. Bellamy/
  • Music By: