The Theatreguide.London Review
Desperately Seeking Susan
Novello Theatre November 2007
Desperately Seeking Susan is a pleasant enough musical in a world in which pleasant enough isn't enough. I doubt if it will be around very long, so fans of either the source movie or the music may need to hurry to see it.
(Note: The musical ran less than a month, though, in a sweet irony, creator Peter Michael Marino toured for years with a solo show dissecting the failure.)
The movie in this case is the 1985 comedy in which Rosanna Arquette thought she was Madonna; the music is the songbook of the Debbie Harry-fronted band Blondie.
A quick reminder - suburban housewife Roberta is fascinated by the adventures of free spirit Susan, which she follows in messages left in newspaper personal ads.
Hit on the head, she awakens thinking she's Susan, but the real Susan has some stolen earrings, and the bad guy ends up chasing the wrong girl.
It's a perfectly adequate musical plot, filled out with some colourful secondary characters in both women's lives, and the songs are effectively shoehorned in.
'Call Me' is Susan's I'm-a-free-spirit self-introduction, 'Heart of Glass' expresses Roberta's dissatisfaction with her square life, 'One Way Or Another' is (inevitably) the bad guy's threat, '11:59" the lead-up to the climax.
(Others are less smoothly forced in. An unimportant character named Maria is introduced just to allow for the song of that name, and giving Susan a punk-rocker boyfriend allows a couple others to be shoved in at random.)
The problem with the show is that a word I used earlier apples to just about everything about it. The songs, the cast, the staging, the writing are all adequate and not much more.
Kelly Price as Roberta and Emma Williams as Susan are both OK, but bring nothing special to the table, and if you saw understudies in their roles, or in any of the secondary roles, I don't think you'd notice any difference.
(Emma Williams is actually a little less than OK - a combination of nasal tone, poor elocution and really bad sound engineering - that part not really her fault - means that her singing too often becomes incomprehensible gabble.)
I liked Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography, which focuses less on production numbers than on moving background people around in interesting ways.
There's not much I actively didn't like. It's just that there's really not enough there - unless you come in with an overpowering affection for the story or music - to make it worth leaving home for.
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