Seeing Whatever Happened To Beverly Daniels last night made me a little nostalgic for my high school days, when a group of people – talented actors, great dancers, good performers – would get together and put on a show. Back then, there was an earnestness, a lot of heart, a lot of energy, a lot of capability, but somehow . . . you just weren’t going to get around the fact that it was a high school play.
Similarly Whatever Happenend To Beverly Daniels is a very earnest play with the seeds of what could – with a little more work-shopping - become a good show. Somehow though, it just doesn’t get off the ground. It bends under overly ambitious production numbers and scenes that would have made a better impact on a smaller level. Again, like watching a high school ensemble trying to recreate the big production values of a Broadway spectacle some of the scenes were grander than they needed to be as vignettes of Hollywood, Las Vegas (two production numbers - both lip synched) and Washington DC swept past Beverly Daniels (Judy Bruno-Bennett).
Bennett does a great job with the material she has to work with, slathering on a honey dripping southern accent with a ladle. She’s funny, likable, and does her level best to lead you by the hand through this story of a gal who started life in a trailer park, graduated to beauty pageants, found her way to Hollywood by way of Vegas, wooed and wiped out a Senator and . . . just when she thought she was washed up, found herself the Queen of the Queen Scene as the Drag set donned costumes in homage to her.
It’s a good story, but it’s told a bit too quickly (and I’m talking about pacing here . . . though the show itself does clock in at under an hour) and everyone’s part is more caricature than character, leaving very little room to connect with any of the characters.
Here’s what I’d like to see Frank Dunham Jr (aka franco) do with this show: take this story back to the drawing board – flesh out some of the characters a bit more, get your amazing background dancers out of those neon wigs, don’t use pre-recorded vocals that, at best, look fake and, at worst, can ruin your dance number when the track skips, and dial up the intimacy level of the script. Show (don’t tell) the drag queen scene at the end . . . (a missed opportunity!) and then approach it all with the same energy, heart and joy that was undoubtedly in abundance during this run.
I guarantee what you’ve started here will have the opportunity to flower – even blossom – into a much stronger production.
Whatever Happened To Beverly Daniels
Part of the Dream Up Festival
Written, Directed and Music Composed by Frank Dunham Jr (aka franco)
Producer : MKii Production
Theater for the New City
Saturday- Sept 4 – 2pm
Sunday- Sept 5 – 5pm
Briana Packen – Kitty Campbell
Eva Kata – Young Beverly
Judy Bruno-Bennett – Beverly Daniels
Patrick Duggan – Filmore Campbell
Paula Schoppe – Moma
Ralph Coppola – Gary Gosset
Toni L. Stanton – Reporter