‘Audrey,’ a Love Letter to Audrey Hepburn, Premieres as Part of Creative Cauldron’s ‘Bold New Works’ Series
FALLS CHURCH, VA – “Audrey: The New Musical” is Danielle E. Moore’s paean to late stage and screen star Audrey Hepburn. Moore, who wrote the book, music and lyrics for this musical, is a young writer and producer. Her ambitious project and fondness for Ms. Hepburn served as the inspiration for its creation. It is based on the extraordinary life and fascinating relationships of the actress and noted humanitarian.
Produced as part of Creative Cauldron’s Bold New Works for Intimate Stages” program, the production is directed by Laura Connors Hull, who had her hands full putting many moving parts in place – a large cast, tons of choreography by Morgan Arravillaga, and a host of musical numbers. (For some unexplained reason, they are unlisted in the program). There is without a doubt enough material in Hepburn’s life to form an entire show. Yet the writer’s job of condensing her career, while still including the many facets of her wartime experiences in Nazi-occupied Holland, appears monumental.
As a young girl living under extraordinarily dangerous conditions, Hepburn worked for the Dutch Resistance. She relayed messages to Allied Forces, losing a member of her own noble family to the Nazis. All this while studying for a career as a ballerina.
Moore splits Audrey’s life in two. First, presenting us with Audrey as the young ballet dancer (Morgan Arrivillaga). Then, her rise to Hollywood stardom, peppering the plot with a compilation of many familiar faces from the period. These include her domineering husband, Spanish actor Mel Ferrer (Santiago Alfonzo Meca); William Holden (Ricky Drummond), a serial womanizer; and Colette, the celebrated French writer who penned “Gigi,” Hepburn’s first Broadway show, and wrote “Ondine,” one of her earliest film successes.
Subsequent stars whirl in and out of her life – Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, Warner Bros. studio head, the bombastic Jack Warner, and Edith Head (Bianca Lipford). Head was regarded as one of the most famed costume designers in Hollywood, designing many of Hepburn’s looks for film. Even Givenchy, the Paris fashion designer, whose glamorous designs Hepburn wore wore both on- and off-screen, is featured, as is Rex Harrison. He starred with her in “My Fair Lady,” the film that saw her win a second Academy Award.
Much of Audrey’s life is represented here, including the constellation of celebrities she knew. All of it is crammed into this musical about a woman whose career didn’t end on the stage and screen. She was also beloved later in life as representative for UNICEF while traveling the globe on humanitarian missions.
But the musical does feel like an attempt to throw everything but the kitchen sink on stage and see what sticks. And that’s the dilemma. What’s important? What’s exciting? What yields the most drama/comedy/pathos/humor? It’s all here, and much of it is interesting. Lots to process. Yet, I’d prefer to see it pared down.
Is a bit with Marilyn Monroe really necessary? Do we need to meet all those famous men in Audrey’s life? Too many to reflect on. Why toss in Ella Fitzgerald (Cynthis Davis), who appears in a Paris café for two numbers? What’s the point? There is enough material here for two separate musicals (I was relieved not to witness a reenactment of Audrey’s funeral).
It’s a Herculean effort that needs refinement. But, wow! I was mightily impressed with the effort, and feel if a more senior production team were involved, this could see a Broadway stage someday. The concept is very clever. The writing and research show that Moore has done her homework on her idol.
All that said, huge kudos to Costume Designer Margie Jervis, who does double duty as Scenic Designer. Her elegant costumes in the “My Fair Lady” Ascot Races scene were spot on. Her recreations of the Givenchy (Tyler Cramer) look-alike dresses and a few 1950’s Edith Head designed costumes were as well.
Smaller details were noticeable in the props. Period movie cameras and flashbulb-popping handheld cameras, used by reporters in trench coats, were perfectly retro. And an extra special shout-out to the stage manager, Nicholas J. Goodman, who had too many cues to count.
The locally-known cast did a bang-up job on the small stage. But the star of the show was clearly the delightfully pixie-like Rebecca Ballinger, who nailed Audrey’s clipped British accent and snappy repartee. So well cast, she even had Audrey’s swan neck, feathery qualities, and lithe figure.
Through June 4 at Creative Cauldron, 410 South Maple Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22046. For tickets and information call the box office at 703-436-9948 or visit creativecauldron.org.
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