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Lightning-fast 'Victor' has actors scrambling

The complicated musical comedy, which has the most expensive set Stage West ever built, premiers Thursday.

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


On its surface, the Henry Mancini-Blake Edwards musical comedy Victor/Victoria looks simple.

Set in 1930s Paris, it's about an out-of-work actress named Victoria, who, at the urging of her gay friend, Toddy, pretends to be a Polish count named Victor who impersonates a woman named Victoria.

Underneath that zany premise, though, are tangled webs of mistaken identities, quick turnarounds and a complicated, two-story set that must be built strong enough that actors can zoom in and out, up and down, slamming doors, at warp speed.

"I myself had no clue how many lightning-fast costume changes (Victoria) does," said Betsy Glasson, who plays the title role in the production of the show opening Thursday at Stage West Community Playhouse.

"And the set -- it's the largest and most expensive that Stage West has ever built."

Director Tom Russell's cast has been in rehearsal for three months. But because of the complexity of the blocking and the number of song and dance numbers, Russell, music director Bobbi Moger and choreographer Jane Geddings have the cast doing two-a-days similar to an sports team.

"This is the most work I have ever put on a role, and I've been doing this since I was 14 years old," Ms. Glasson said. "Everybody is working very, very hard. This cast is great."

Besides Ms. Glasson, the cast includes Matt Veasey as her friend, Toddy, and Ken Schildbach as a Chicago gangster, King Marchan, who finds himself uncomfortably attracted to Victor. The attraction prompts Marchan's big number about "the girl I love is a guy" in King's Dilemma. Even though Marchan feels better once he learns that Victor really is female, his ditsy gang moll, Norma (Leanne Germann), and his Chicago buddies, Sal (Jerry Hartnett) and Clam (Sam Petricone), are discombobulated because they think he's "gone gay."

The sizable cast includes Toddy's former roommate, Richard (Daniel Brigbag), who shows up at all the wrong times; the proprietor of the nightclub where Victor performs, Henri Labisse (Bob Reece); a suspicious agent, Andre Cassell (Dalton Benson); and a pack of reporters (Joy Platt, Bill Dimmitt, AnnMarie Hartnett and Ty Young), plus singers, dancers, musicians, spectators, waiters, and even a police officer.

Ms. Glasson has won several HAMI Awards, including best actress in a musical for her portrayal of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific and for best lead female in a play for Moon Over Buffalo. Director Russell has won HAMIs for directing and set design for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; set design and choreography for Into the Woods; and set design for Hello, Dolly.

Because of the show's cross-dressing and depiction of the gay world, it is customarily recommended for mature audiences.

At a glance

WHAT: Victor/Victoria

WHERE: Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill

WHEN: Thursdays and weekends May 10-27. Shows are at 8 p.m., except Sundays at 2 p.m.

TICKETS: Adults, $14; students, $7. Box office is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and an hour before each show. Call (352) 683-5113.

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