If you’re a female singer down on your luck in 1930s Paris, the obvious thing to do is to go to gay nightclubs, pretend you’re a man, and do a killer act as a female impersonator.
At least, that’s what Victoria Grant (Toni Tennille — yes, of “Captain and Tennille”) does in “Victor/Victoria,” the national touring company of which is at the Capitol Theatre through Sunday.
Naturally, everyone who thinks she’s a man remarks on what a great job “he’s” doing impersonating a woman, and the act becomes a smashing success. (Apparently, there was a big market for female impersonators in pre-war Paris. What, weren’t there enough actual women?) Only one person knows her secret: Her gay accomplice Carroll Todd (Jamie Ross), who put her up to it as a way of earning money for both of them.
The trouble comes when Chicago Mafioso King Marchan (Dennis Cole) sees the act and doesn’t believe “Victor” is a man impersonating a woman. He thinks Victor is really a woman. He’s right, of course, but his reason for thinking it is purely selfish — he finds himself falling in love with Victor/Victoria, and he can’t accept the idea that he might be falling in love with a man. Victor has GOT to be a woman!
Victoria is equally attracted to King, but of course can’t let on because she’s supposed to be a man. Carroll seems attracted to him, too, but then, Carroll seems to be attracted to all men. In fact, the basis of his relationship with a character who eventually reveals himself to be gay is pretty much just that they’re both gay. If gays are easily offended by outrageous stereotypes — and this show plays them to the hilt — then they shouldn’t see this show.
It’s all in good fun, though, and “Victor/Victoria” is brilliantly funny. Stealing the show is King’s ditzy girlfriend Norma (Dana Lynn Mauro), a dumb blonde who manages to take the role beyond what we normally see for this type of character. There’s still no depth, but Mauro makes Norma into by far the most entertaining, hilarious character in the show. (On opening night, she received more applause at the curtain call than anyone else, including the “star” Toni Tennille.)
One noteworthy scene has about seven characters sneaking around two adjoining hotel suites, hiding from each other in closets and under beds as they try to find out information about each other. Everything is timed and choreographed perfectly, with doors opening and shutting at just the right moments. It’s an amazing sequence.
And all those doors are an indication as to what this show really is: a farce. The acting is generally broad, the characters enthusiastically flat. The show hints at a message about being yourself and accepting who you are, and there is some stuff about gender roles. But none of it really hits home. Tennille is more of a singer than an actress, though she performs well enough to keep the show afloat. (Her superb supporting cast helps tremendously, too.)
Ultimately, the show is thoroughly entertaining and fun, point or no point. Robin Wagner’s sets are lively, and Dan Mojica’s choreography is excellent. For a couple hours of goofy, far-fetched amusement, it’s hard to beat this.
Julie Andrews played the lead role in the film version of this show, and originated the part on Broadway in 1995. Unfortunately, she had a surgery that wound up damaging her vocal chords, and she had to quit the show -- which is why the touring company featured Toni Tennille instead of Julie Andrews.
This was difficult for some of us to deal with. Toni Tennille is good and all, but Julie Andrews is a legend, and is fabulously talented. At the curtain call, as Toni took her bow, all I could think was: "This COULD have been Julie Andrews."
Toni's problem is that she is not sexy as a man or as a woman. There I've said it.