BootLeg Betty

The Spirit of Bette Midler Hovers Over New Musical

Syracuse.com
‘Bathhouse’ foursome do fine work
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
JOAN E. VADEBONCOEUR
ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

The spirit of Bette Midler hovers over “Bathhouse: The Musical,” Rarely Done Productions’ season closer.

Midler first gained a following with appearances at New York City bathhouses, where gay men could find entertainment and sexual freedom. The musical explores these places through the eyes of Billy, a youth who has just come out of the closet to the dismay and distress of his family.

It is not easy for Billy to express his feelings and he is not welcomed immediately. But, once he dips his toes in the waters, he loses his inhibitions and becomes popular as he meets three men. One of the men is married, a father and a closet gay.

The trio teaches him the ways of bathhouse life and adds tips on how to navigate the dating shoals in and out of the place. Emerging from his shell, Billy becomes relaxed and comfortable in his own person.

Tim Evanicki and Esther Daack have created a musical that, while explicit in its sex simulation, offers some touching moments and some wild hilarity. Gospel and tango music filter into the pop score and culminates with a segment that speaks directly to the hypocrisy of using such tunes as “Can’t Say No” from “Oklahoma!” and “My Favorite Things” from “Sound of Music.”

Besides David Cotter, whose Billy is a cherubic joy, Alex Allport makes a macho Teddy, Jimmy Wachter is a hoot as the unfettered David, and Peter Irwin shines as Maurice, the married man. Individually and as a group, the foursome are vocally fine.

Director Dan Tursi is responsible for those excellent casting choices and for moving the show along at a brisk clip, as well as making his points with humor and candor, short of offending most of the audience.

Also deserving of credit is musical director Chris Widomski, who demonstrates that a piano can be as effective as a band when the talent and the music are as high caliber as in this production.

My Space: www.myspace.com/bathhousethemusical

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