“Respect” Deserves More Than a Little Respect

Plain Dealer
Sept. 9, 2006
Reviewed by Tony Brown, Plain Dealer Theater Critic

When I first heard the concept of “Respect: A Musical Journey” — using pop music to trace the progress or lack thereof among the female of our species — my first reaction was: Great. “Pre-menopause the Musical…”

“Menopause,” which displayed its many charms in a long run at the 14th Street Theatre, is one gimmick repeated over and over: rewriting pop song lyrics so that “Chain of Fools” becomes “Change of Life,” etc., etc., etc.

In “Respect,” creator Dorothy Marcic uses archeological and anthropological techniques to find songs — from “Bill Bailey” to “Stand by Your Man” to “This One’s for the Girls” — and to arrange them in an engaging, compelling and funny narrative…

The production values are higher here than in “Menopause,” with a two-story collage set by Russ Borski, sexy costumes from Mary Lynne Izzo, actual choreography from Barbara Flaten and priceless moments from director David Arisco.

And the cast can really sing. That is especially true of Melissa Barber, a local pop singer who really has come into her own as a musical-theater performer. She’s got pipes forever, and she’s come a long way in a short time as an actress. Don’t even try to resist her “Whatever Lola Wants” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

The other three performers (two are “Menopause” alumnae) also do well. Paula Kline-Messner has just the right touch of motherly authority as our narrator, Tina Stump belts the blues convincingly, and cutesy Tricia Bestic wrestles with a phone cord in Arisco’s finest priceless moment, at the end of Act 1.

But, on the whole, “Respect” deserves more than a little respect.