Dirty Blonde, Black Roots

Musicals explore the birth of the blues, the death of a bawdy Hollywood icon

The confusing concept of Dirty Blonde, directed by Jac Alder, sends Johnson spinning in and out of the Mae West character, sometimes in her own frizzy brown hair and sometimes wearing a curly white-blond wig. The roles of Charlie and Jo exist as vehicles to spout exposition about West's life and career. The show only comes to life when Johnson's playing West, and though she does a passable impersonation of the actress' ooh-ooh voice, she doesn't have the pelvic oomph the old broad had. Even into her dotage, Mae West oozed sex appeal. Johnson doesn't, even when she's purring lines like "Ten days in jail? What about my nights?"

On the tech side, Dirty Blonde is dull as dishwater. Lighting by Carl Munoz is dreary and on the night reviewed had several missed cues. Set design by Harland Wright amounts to a big pink circle painted on the floor. It's getting tiresome to keep harping on the lousy costumes this theater insists on forcing on its actors, but even with a limited budget (what, about $1.95 per show?) Patty Korbelic Williams has assembled an especially ragtag selection of outfits for a character, West, who was never less than glamorously turned out in real life. This theater's Mae West is wrapped in a long boa so cheap it sheds feathers like Big Bird in a hailstorm. Dobson stoops to pick up each lost plume and sticks them in his pocket, to be recycled for the next show, I'd guess, that needs a hot-glued Indian headdress.

Sheran Goodspeed-Keyton stars as blues great Bessie Smith at Jubilee Theatre.
Buddy Myers
Sheran Goodspeed-Keyton stars as blues great Bessie Smith at Jubilee Theatre.

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