SAN DIEGO—It’s The Housewives is an ‘80’s ‘comic rock musical’ with book (very sketchy and kitschy) by Hope Juber and Ellen Guylas, music and lyrics by Hope and Laurence Juber and choreography by Kay Cole. Original staging is by Kelly Ann Ford. It’s here in San Diego now at the 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown for a four week run. The show premiered in Los Angeles last year to rave reviews. Domestic comedies do have their curb and cult appeal. Throw in a little music relating to those household chores, spice it up with a back-story and more, and BINGO you have an audience. The rave reviews I’ll save for someone else.
The Jubers, Hope and Lawrence, husband and wife team/creators of the show are all too familiar with show business and that qualifies them (in my book) to reflect more on their domestic journey which was co mingled with their involvement in the theatre and the performing arts, than my look back. Hope Juber was in a band called ‘The Housewives’ and husband Laurence played in Paul McCartney’s band, Wings.
Way before that however Hope, whose dad Sherwood Schwartz created The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island appeared, occasionally in the Brady Bunch as Rachel, Greg’ girlfriend. So sit-com’s and music, child stars, and child rearing and being in a band along with (and in collaboration with her husband) writing the score to the popular (among many others) Gilligan’s Island – The Musical which played here at the Theatre in Old Town in 1994, Hope Juber has been one busy gal.
Inspired, says Juber, while watching The Jersey Boys, to write a fictionalized back-story to her days as a member of the Housewives band, which she played in from 1982-95, she uses a friendly plumber, (Tony Cicchetti) as a sounding board. He is not only a fan of the band Housewives but also a Housewives junkie (willing to sell her out for enough money).
He recognizes the damsel in distress in need of a plumber, Becca (Jamey Hood) as one of the original Housewives members even though she is wearing huge dark glasses, a large brimmed green hat and matching overly large wrap around robe to hide her figure; all to conceal her identity. (Sharrell Martin designed the outfits). After some weak denials, she acquiesces to sharing the back-story of the band’s breakup.
And so the journey of the singing housewives begins as told by Becca. They started out innocently as three stay at home moms, she begins, who shared a love of singing and guacamole. They met each week at Lynn’s (Corinne Dekker) house rehearsing for their PTA talent show gig. The third housewife Lexie (Jayme Lake) was always late (an overdone running joke) but they rehearsed and as fate would have it, their popularity gained from the Benjamin Harrison PTA mom’s talent show to the local Laundromat, to local T.V. to the cover of Time magazine. All was good.
But everything that goes up, comes down and the group’s popularity declines, through a series of mishaps, vying divas, best guacamole runoffs, domestic blips and just plain infighting. the gals went their own way eventually to be reconciled once again.
The book is the weakest link of the entire production and in between the high energy musical numbers, the dialogue drags and the show goes on too long to really hold your interest. While the lyrics are clever —considering they are about the humdrum world of ironing, housecleaning, dusting and watching soaps— and the gals are very talented, this reviewer found her thoughts wandering after intermission.
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I had my dreams when I was a little girl and as they faded, so did my whole world”.
My imagination, it used to know no bounds
Now boredom and frustration is all I've found when I think about it, it cuts me like a sword, oh lord, oh lord! I’m ironing bored!
(Oh lord, she’s ironing bored)
What would have happened if I'd stayed in school? Getting married at 16, God I must have been a fool. I know I have some talent, hidden deep inside
I could even be an actress, if I ever really tried. When I think about it, it cuts me like a sword.
Oh lord, oh lord! I’m ironing bored! (Oh lord, she’s ironing bored)
Songs range from babysitters to repairmen, to “In Sink and At Your Disposal”, “Spotless Love” to “Pledge or Behold”, “Rock ‘N’ Rollers” and “I’ve Been Defrosting All Day”, “Erica You Bitch” (that’s Erica of All My Children soap), “Football Widow” to “Call A Repairman” (reprise). Styles range from Blues to rock to country to pop. There are 18 in all and the trio, lively as they are, can’t overcome the lousy sound system in the black box space to save their lives no matter how hard sound designer Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski tried.
Both body mikes and standing mikes can’t dismiss the muffled sounds and often lagging behind look of the words (tunes) coming out of the performers mouths. The pre-recorded sound track in the background is a distraction and definitely a minus for this lively group. Live music or no mikes in this small venue might prove to be a plus! Either might be worth a try.
Also on the plus side is the ‘A’ for effort of the three women. Jamey Hood acts as the narrator and as such is pretty much a ball of fire with her wider than wide effervescent smile and exaggerated all over the place leading of the group. Her story is the one that gets the most attention from her best recipe guacamole to her break up with husband/manager Stewart (Dan Gordon). She was a standout in her rendition of “Erica You Bitch”. That was a showstopper along with her turkey/lurky costume and number “What I’m Thankful For” during a Thanksgiving themed show.
The other Jayme, Jayme Lake is perfect as the dumb blond Lexie and Corrine Dekker is a great balance as Lynne. When she takes her place as the lead, something that was promised her from the beginning but took too long to happen, she rocks the house as did Hood’s Becca before her in one of her earlier numbers. All three women complement each other well.
O.P. Hadlock, Andy Lurie, Lisa Cicchetti, Tony Cicchetti and Dan Gordon play multiple roles and fill in the gaps. Tony Cicchetti was one of the weakest links in the group acting as the plumber who wanted to sell out Becca to a tabloid magazine. On opening night his energy level was zero to none. Lurie excelled as Hugo the Laundromat owner, Hadlock was great in his multiple roles, while Lisa Cicchetti was convincing as the other women in the show. Juber directs, set designs are by DC and Sharell Martins costumes are right on.
Cynthia Citron, San Diego Jewish World's LA Bureau Chief, recently noted that Hope and her brother Lloyd are working on a Christmas movie. “Who but Jews write the best Christmas movies and songs?” ‘Nuff said!
If you’re in for some campy fun, clever songs and fine performances give it a try.
It’s The Housewives continues through Sept. 27 at the 10th Avenue Theatre, 930 10th Avenue. Theatre times: 8PM on Fridays, 2 and 8 on Saturdays, 2 PM on Sundays.
See you at the theatre.