Wilton Manors Deserves RESPECT!

South Florida’s Entertainment News & Views
Dec. 24 – Jan. 6, 2004 – Vol. 24 – No. 52
By Phyllis Green Theater Columnist

There’s a wonderful little theatre tucked away in a wonderful little strip mall, with a wonderful little show that’s sure to make it wonderfully BIG! Currently enjoying a respectable run at The Stage Door’s 26th Street Theatre, Wilton Manors, after completing a successful sold-out run at The Cuillo Centre for the Arts in West Palm Beach, RESPECT: A Musical Journey of Women, raises the bar on all its forerunners and can set the standard for this particular form of presentation. In all due respect to others of this genre, there are very few overly impressive surprises in these creative times filled with gimmicks, themes, and hooks. Most shows somehow find the successful formula in juxtaposing any collection of songs into a somewhat chronological series, and that is it: a perfect ploy for a perfect play. RESPECT stands with full esteem, as it runs the gamut in terms of format, interest and entertainment.

Emily Price, Paulette Dozier, and Jeanette Fitzpatrick in RESPECT: A Musical Journey of Women

A classy production, RESPECT is the sum total of all its parts, starting with the concept, and a very interesting one at that. Conceived in 1999 by Vanderbilt Professor Dr. Dorothy Marcic, as a presentation on the equality of women, she decided to add some music to her programs and, in doing so, found that popular music could almost re-create the history of women. It was in that manner, that she told the story of their place in the 20th century. This precluded the book, the CD, the one-woman show, and presently a sold-out production of RESPECT: A Musical Journey of Women.

Borrowing tunes from standard song sheets as well as Broadway, grouped in medley style in rapid-fire order, some hundred or so passages travel the path under the genius of Musical Director and Arranger Phil Hinton. On an up-stage bandstand sat the musical trio, equipped with a standing bass, electronic drums and keyboard; high above a beautiful setting by Zachariah Phillips, providing the four very talented artists the perfect means to effectively perform. And perform, they did! Two hours of non-stop energy utilizing every square inch of the welcoming stage, strikingly lit by Arden Landhuis.

A most gifted cast, all with very impressive resumes, starting with Miki Edelman, as the Author/Narrator, and the ensemble, stately jazz stylist, Paulette Dozier, all-around opera and musical soloist, Emily Price, and the show’s standout, musical actress, Jeanette Fitzpatrick, executed interpretations with panache. These abundantly versatile and attractive performers tackled a most intricate score with ease. Those sure-footed ladies harmonized and danced their way up and down a large circular staircase in a cacophony of attitudes; power, silliness, determination, hysteria, acrimony, wonderment; all spoofing the subservience endured by women of yesteryear to the independence of today. From the Gibson Girl, the Vamp, and Betty Boop, the suffragettes, the women left behind in the wars, the work force, the sexual revolution, their achievements and attainments toward greatness in world affairs, (oh yes, let’s not forget affairs) marriage, then and now; everything coming back to the perfunctory “I Am Woman,” “Stand By Your Man” and if not, “I Will Survive.”

This musical variation transforms and inspires, providing a powerful message; not just from the standpoint of a theatergoer; but more so, from its origin as a college level lecture piece. It underscores the fact that when tastefully presented, complete with solid musicians and effervescent performers, an intellectually projected piece such as RESPECT: A Musical Journey of Women, can certainly induce a smile in the heart of the observer, and can stand tall along side of any similar endeavor. Author Dorothy Marcic has been called a great motivational speaker, and now she can take her place among the great theatrical providers. Having said that, the bottom line here is that this show that has been playing to full houses, is a feel-good, can’t-stop-raving-about-it BALL, and a MUST SEE! You Go, Girl!

“RESPECT: A Musical Journey of Women” is playing through January 30 at the Stage Door’s 26th Street Theatre, located at 1444 NE 26th Street, Wilton Manors.