The Divorce Party
"Divorce Party: The Musical," now playing at Parker Playhouse, is a jukebox musical with the subtitle 'The hilarious journey to hell..and back' which is appropriate in ways the authors never intended.
The show is a standard jukebox musical with popular songs from the last century re-worked with new lyrics to fit a rather sparse and shaky plot. The story concerns Linda who is divorcing her husband after he comes out to her. Her life is falling apart and her sister, Carolyn, her lesbian cousin, Courtney, and her friend, Sheila, come to throw her a divorce party to help her begin to move on with her life.
The depictions of the gay and lesbian characters in the show are nothing short of offensive. The character of Courtney is a straight male's version of a lesbian: a bimbo who has run out of men and therefore decides to switch to women, while the one gay male character we see on stage, Gavin the hairdresser, is so stereotypically flamboyant that there were actually groans from the audience members at his entrance.
But "Divorce Party: The Musical" is not aimed at a GLBTQ audience. The show's target audience demographic is a heterosexual woman who has been through a divorce and will relate to the weak jokes in the show.
The tragedy of the show is that the cast deserves better material. Janna Cardia, who plays Linda, and Mary Jayne Waddell who plays Carolyn are both fine actresses and singers. Soara-Joye Ross, who plays Sheila, has a soul voice that soars on the Aretha Franklin covers in the show.
Sarmara Dunn, who plays Courtney, was by far the best singer of the show in a cast of outstanding singers. It is worth seeing the show just to hear her belt her way through what were originally great songs. She has a magnificent voice and she knows how to use it.
All of the male characters were played by Scott Ahearn, who valiantly battled his way through several costume changes, the most embarrassing of which included being dressed up like a sex toy, and a strip tease at the end appears to be a capable performer with a pleasant voice.
Aside from an abysmal plot, "Divorce Party: The Musical" also suffers from several set issues At one point a banner was put up to say 'Happy Divorce" but apparently the double P's could not be found by the stage crew and didn't make it up in time. That ended up not mattering because when the wall that they were attached to moved, the banner was ripped to shreds by the time the wall returned to its original position.
Several times during the course of the performance, the stage crew was visible on stage changing parts of the sets. This was obviously unintentional. The overall effect resembled badly planned community theater.
The show was rife with missed or mistake lighting cues. The costuming was amateurish. The 'fat-suit' worn by Linda throughout most of the show was unrealistic and unnecessary as was the one worn by Courtney at the end of the show. The 'rabbit vibrator' costume forced upon actor Scott Ahearn at the end of act one looked like something out of a school science fair project. The wigs that the women wore were too obviously wigs and did not enhance the actresses wearing them.
At just over two and a half hours with a 15-minute intermission, the show is very long. While it is mostly music, there is a very lengthy section near the end of Act Two that is all dialogue in a 'self-help' vein. This section stops what forward movement the show has and makes the evening seem even longer.
Knowing that this is not my type of show, I made a point of talking to several audience members before and after the show. On the whole, the women in the audience seemed to enjoy the show while all of the men I spoke to insisted they would have left at intermission if their wives had been willing to leave.
"Divorce Party: The Musical" runs through Dec. 29 at Parker Playhouse, 707 Northeast 8th Street in Fort Lauderdale. Flor info or tickets, call 954-462-0222 or visit www.browardcenter.org