By Claudia Shear
Directed by Stephen M. Genovese
At Theater Wit, Chicago
“I made myself platinum, but I was born a dirty blond.” – Mae West
Bo Ho Theatre and director Stephen M. Genovese have mounted a fine production of Claudia Shear’s clever ode to Mae West – Dirty Blonde. Filled with raunchy double entrendes and cute relationship humor, Dirty Blonde weaves the rise and fall of a vaudeville and film legend – Mae West – with a love story from two unlikely Mae West fans.
Playwright Claudia Shear created three major roles, each demanding that the actors be able to change characters with ease. We see Anne Sheridan Smith move effectively from being Mae West – with her swagger, distinct voice and seductive walk and sexy talk to a cocky, brash and outspoken contemporary actress – Jo. Smith deftly changes persona. Smith sure has Mae West’s husky voice down pat and she presents West’s act aptly. Mae West surly lives in Anne Sheridan Smith’s convincing performance.
We also see Nicholas Bailey narrate the story while quickly becoming key characters in Mae West’s life. Bailey plays piano, sings and dances and he nicely moves from Mae’s latest love interest to her live-in companion.
We also have a quite strong work from David Tibble who moves swiftly from the nerdy Mae West fanatic to a shy cross-dressing possible mate for Jo. Tibble also utilizes his triple talents (acting, singing and dancing) to move from one of Mae’s companions to another. He also works as an on stage ensemble player.
One of the elements that makes this show so appealing is the blending of Mae West’s story and Smith’s terrific take on West with the depiction of what length fanatic fans will go to in their devotion to their star. The cult of celebrity sure can overwhelm yet Jo seems to learn from West’s extravagant, sexy, taboo-breaking persona while Tibble’s Charlie secretly gets comfort and pleasure by dressing in Mae’s gowns.
Anne Sheridan Smith nails West’s tunes: “I’m No Angel” and “She Done Him Wrong.” We witness the rise and fall of Mae West as well as the effects of her image on Jo and Charlie. And we have a good time throughout this 95 minute journey. The three wonderful performances give this show warmth, charm and personality. Come meet Mae West and her followers – you’ll have fun and a few laughs.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 3, 2011
For full show information, go to the Dirty Blonde page at TheatreinChicago page.
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL, 773-975-8150, www.bohotheatre.com, tickets $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 95 minutes without an intermission, through May 1, 2011