Chanhassen Revue Celebrates the Powerful Voices of Women

Star Tribune – Minneapolis-St. Paul Minnesota
August 20, 2007
Review by Rohan Preston

Cast of Respect
Photo courtesy Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
From top right, clockwise,
‘Respect’ playwright Dorothy Marcic and performers
Andrea Uselman-Brandt, Emily Rose-Skinner, Seri Johnson and Timotha Lanae.

Predicting stage success is an unscientific process. But based on her performance in “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women,” Timotha Lanae is well on her way.

While her three workman-like mates operate on a one-to-10 scale, this dynamo tops out even higher in Dorothy Marcic’s jaunty jukebox revue, which opened over the weekend at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

Lanae has clear talent, including a powerful, multi-octave voice that she uses well, whether belting a disco song or the blues, harmonizing or singing show tunes. She also is a precise and spirited mover, dancing with the sort of determined, stylish bounce that characterizes songstress Beyoncé.

Staged and choreographed with sassiness by Tamara Kangas and backed by a nimble trio led by pianist Tom Mustachio, “Respect” uses top-40 songs from the 20th century to limn the expansion (and contraction) of women’s roles inside the home and out.

The revue is not just about history lessons illustrated with examples from one female-led family’s story, however. Through music, dance and slides, this cute production centers women in some broader historical moments. For example, “Respect” evokes such iconic figures as Rosie the Riveter of World War II fame and civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.

And for something that still wears its academic roots — it grew out of a researched book by Marcic — “Respect” is surprisingly amusing, particularly with the cheeky use of images of such figures as Monica Lewinsky and O.J. Simpson, not to mention party girls Paris and Britney.

This is the kind of production that requires performers with great range. The ensemble members — Andrea Uselman-Brandt and Emily Rose Skinner fill out the cast — show strength on some numbers.

Feminism’s major critique of our culture is that women’s roles in society are defined, and often limited, by their relationship to people or things. “Respect” illustrates, but does not further, this critique.

Because of its light, entertaining bits of history, plus the possibility that after Laura Osnes of “Grease” fame, Timotha Lanae may be the next star to emerge from Chanhassen, “Respect” goes down as easy as dessert.

www.chanhassentheatres. com.