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Theater Review: “Victor/Victoria"

“Victor/Victoria” plays through September 28, 2019, at Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.
Photo credit:
Ken Jacques

When a broke, hungry singer named Victoria (Allison Spratt Pearce) meets a barely-employed café singer in a Left Bank club, Toddy (Lance Arthur Smith) tries to help her by setting up an audition with the club owner.

But boss Henri Labisse (Luke H. Jacobs) first rejects her, then fires him, and the duo ends up in his flat, where her plaintive song “If I Were a Man” gives him an idea: he’ll dress Victoria up as a man and present her as a male impersonator. He christens her Count Victor Grazinsky, takes her to impresario Andre Cassell (Jamie Snyder), who is unimpressed until he hears her high G-flat, and he/she is in business.

A woman playing a man playing a woman? It may have seemed a crazy idea then, but this was gay (in more ways than one) Paree in the early 1930s and anything went.

Forgive the allusion to the great Cole Porter musical; this isn’t that, it’s “Victor/Victoria,” which started life as a 1933 German film. That inspired the terrific 1982 British-American film starring the excellent Julie Andrews, and was later turned into a 1995 Broadway show by Blake Edwards (also starring Edwards’ wife Andrews).

Moonlight Stage Productions brings the musical “Victor/Victoria” to Vista’s Moonlight Theatre through Sept. 28.

The show looks great, offers a sparkling cast and boasts the Broadway sets and costumes. Unfortunately, the show isn’t as funny or even as engaging as the film.

Maybe it’s just too outdated. Back in the ’80s, a play about a drag queen might have been at least a bit surprising, but in a town where a local public library just had a “drag queen story hour” for the kiddies, the shock value is gone, and we’re left with the unlikely plotline that adult men could easily be fooled by a female impersonator.

Maybe it seems patched together because it was. Henry Mancini died before he finished the songs; the rest were penned by Frank Wildhorn. They had totally different styles, and it shows.

Victor/Victoria becomes the toast of Paris society, without even playing up the gay/straight angle, which is a major part of the film’s plotline. That’s something else that needs changing.

But let that go. What does this show offer? A great, game cast and terrific, athletic choreography by John Vaughan, who also directs the show with a sure hand. The plot isn’t about dance, but it’s the best asset the show has (aside from the cast), so enjoy it.

Other colorful characters include King Marchan (Hank Stratton) an American businessman who hobnobs with Chicago mobsters and  his ditzy, grating-voiced girlfriend Norma (Bets Malone), who earns her keep with a great performance of the song “Le Jazz Hot.” King ends up falling for the drag queen, and the feeling is mutual. But is s/he or isn’t s/he?

Local favorite Spratt Pearce has never disappointed and doesn’t here either, showing really great high notes as well as fine dancing and acting chops as Victor/Victoria.

Lighting and sound are well handled by Jean-Yves Tessier and Jim Zadai.

Give conductor Lyndon Pugeda and his fine 21-member orchestra points for fine jobs all around.

Moonlight artistic director Steven Glaudini gets kudos for bringing this show to local audiences for the first time. It’s big, splashy and very well done, if only fitfully engaging.

I look forward to Moonlight’s next season.

The details

“Victor/Victoria” plays through September 28, 2019, at Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.

Wednesday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: (760) 724-2110 or www.moonlightstage.com