Gold Dust Orphans' "Whatever...": Marvel-ous

Ryan Landry & Larry Coen in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jesus?"
(photo: Michael von Redlich)

This is the very best Gold Dust Orphans show this critic has ever seen!

Of course, it's the only one, which must mean that one simply has to get out more often, or at least admit the truth up front, that one is a virgin, at least as far as the wacky company known as the Gold Dust Orphans is concerned (and they've been around since 1995, so how else can that be explained?). Given the company's popularity, expectations were high, and they were not disappointed. Somewhere between a romp and a hoot, this production actually exceeds mere success; it's an enlightening delight.

It goes by the name of Whatever Happened to Baby Jesus?, A Christmas Mystery, an obvious play on the title of a certain film (and a certain Marvel-ous Event). As always, it stems from the mind and groin of Ryan Landry, who takes on the role of Blanche Hudson, sister to Formerly Famous Child Star Baby Jane (Larry Coen, who also directs the show). Each of these world-wise actors set a high standard for the rest of the cast, as well as the creative team behind the scenes. That would include Joe Parks (Michael Underhill) and Mary Marvel (Taryn Lane); that would be (wink, nod) Joseph and Mary, but that's about as mildly blasphemous as the production ever gets. It's much more interested in skewering the news of the day, from political targets to the latest scandals, all, as the saying goes, fang firmly in cheek. There are more plot threads than a colonial quilt, brewing over from the manic mind of playwright Landry, but that's just fine, as the medium here is the true message, which is to say the well-rehearsed ensemble that includes characters like Abigail Marvel (Vanessa Calantropo), Yurick van der Beek (Jack Ferdman), Dr. Bubbles Goldberg (Kiki Samko) and Bea Smirch (the beloved trouper Penny Champayne), as well as Orville Smirch (the remarkably buttocked Sam Thornhill Geoghegan). There's not a clinker in this cast, which would apply to the rest of the characters, from Elvira/Pansy (Qya Cristal), to the Preacher/Butterfly (Matt Kyle) and the Preacher's Wife/Vera (Meghan Edge), to Marge (Sarah Jones), Phil (Tim Lawton) and Professor Davis (William York).

The Ensemble in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jesus?'
(photo: Michael von Redlich)

The cumulative effect of all this performing talent results in a lot of surprisingly professional singing and dancing, with choreography by Kyle, Edge and Cristal. Attention must be paid to the complicated Music Direction by Lawton, hilariously creative and stunning Costumes by House of Martino, intricate Lighting by Michael Clark Wonson and Video by Ari Herzig, with what seemed like hundreds of clever Scenics by Matthew Lazure, as well as Sound by Landry himself. This did feel like a take-off on another popular film, Summer Stock (based on the still-producing Priscilla Beach Theatre in nearby Plymouth).

This show, as has been stated elsewhere, will keep you on your toes, at the edge of your seat, and on the cusp of a cliché! But never fear, Landry obviously has everything well in hand. It's the perfect antidote to the nightly national news, and a lot more entertaining.

The company's venue is downstairs at Machine at 1254 Boylston Street, to December 23rd. But seriously, folks, we could all use a show's-worth of sight gags and sound bites, some even painful (“like Yankee Magazine, she has a lot of issues”), and not a few a tad racy for this review, but it's all in good pun.

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