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Friday, 20 August 2010 13:57

Off-Broadway Review: PLATINUM

Written by
Jay Wilkison (l), Wayne Wilcox and Donna Bullock in PLATINUM Jay Wilkison (l), Wayne Wilcox and Donna Bullock in PLATINUM Photo: Dixie Sheridan
When Platinum opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre (now a church) in 1978 it only ran for 12 previews and 33 regular performances.  While the show’s star, Alexis Smith got rave notices, the piece in general didn’t fare so well.  Clive Barnes wrote “It is an anecdote structured on a skeleton of banal music.”  Oh how right he was.  This is the kind of musical that makes people who hate musicals, hate musicals.

The original production at least had the benefit of a Broadway budget and star.  The production of Platinum that just premiered this past week at the Lucille Lortel Theatre as part of the New York International Fringe Festival is flat and uninteresting.  The music by Gary William Friedman is forgettable and at times annoying (“Sunset City”).  The aforementioned song was reprised so frequently it made me want to gouge my eyes out.  The book by Will Holt and Bruce Vilanch is only modestly humorous.

When Platinumopened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre (now a church) in 1978 it only ran for 12 previews and 33 regular performances.  While the show’s star, Alexis Smith got rave notices, the piece in general didn’t fare so well.  Clive Barnes wrote “It is an anecdote structured on a skeleton of banal music.”  Oh how right he was.  This is the kind of musical that makes people who hate musicals, hate musicals.

The original production at least had the benefit of a Broadway budget and star.  The production of Platinum that just premiered this past week at the Lucille Lortel Theatre as part of the New York International Fringe Festival is flat and uninteresting.  The music by Gary William Friedman is forgettable and at times annoying (“Sunset City”).  The aforementioned song was reprised so frequently it made me want to gouge my eyes out.  The book by Will Holt and Bruce Vilanch is only modestly humorous.

Platinum is the story of washed-up film star, Lila Halliday, played here by Donna Bullock. She has worked with all the greats, she had “three Oscar nominations, two Golden Globes and twenty-seven box office hits.”  It is almost forty years later (or so we are to believe) and we see her now beyond her prime and with no career.  The setting is a recording studio at Platinum Studios run by the head of production from her last film 10-15 years ago, Jeff Rollins, played by Bruce Sabath.  She is there to record an album she hopes will revive her career.

Also inhabiting this world is Jamie, a recording engineer and wanna-be song-writer played by Wayne Wilcox. Jay Wilkionis Dan Riley, a rock-star who is “over-the-hill” at the ripe old age of 31.  He hasn’t had a hit song in 2 years.  He subsequently falls for Lila, despite their age difference.  Crystal is an up-and-coming talent played by Sarah Litzsinger.  She also happens to be Dan’s ex. Litzsinger has the ignoble distinction of being Broadway’s longest running Belle in Beauty and the Beast.  She has certainly stepped out of Belle’s shadow with this character, an opportunist who doesn’t think twice about stealing one of Lila’s songs for herself.

One of the things that drove me crazy about this piece is that the dates and numbers don’t make sense.  At one point Rollins (Sabath) is telling Jamie (Wilcox) that Lila is 50.  We are told that her first film was in 1940.  This would have made her 12 at the time.  While that is certainly plausible, it isn’t believable.    Bullock’s Halliday has a contemporary feel about her.  We’re expecting Norma Desmond and we get thoroughly modern Millie.  She also looks too young.  Bullock gives a serviceable performance, as does the entire cast.  Their voices are alright but nothing overly impressive.  In all fairness, that may have had more to do with the acoustics of the theatre (more on that later).

Platinumwas revised and directed by Ben West.  It would have been so much more interesting if West had chosen to go with an older actress and really played up the May to December aspect of the relationship between Dan and Lila.  As it was cast, you didn’t think twice about the age difference between the two because it doesn’t look that vast.

The show itself is produced by UnSungMusicalsCo. Inc., a not-for-profit organization devoted to the presentation of infrequently performed musicals from the Golden Age.  The productions at the festival are frequently low-budget with little in the way of production-values.  This production was no different.  The cast is accompanied by a single piano with no mikes at all.  Unfortunately their voices are stifled by lousy acoustics in the Lortel and were at times drowned out by the piano.

Platinum is a poor-man’s Sunset Boulevard without Andrew Lloyd Webber’s tuneful songs.  (Side note, this show’s original title was Sunset)  A subsequent off-Broadway production of Platinum was produced at the Village Gate a few years after the original.  It starred Tammy Grimes and met the same cruel fate as the original production, a short run.

This year’s Fringe Festival is presenting 191 productions, an impressive feat.  It runs through August 29th.  You can get more information from their website at FringeNYC.org.

Last modified on Sunday, 22 August 2010 18:52