Hollywood Fringe 2016
Semi-autobiographical cabaret about a girl who falls in and out of love and Showbiz.
Emily Clark has been performing her semi-autobiographical cabaret “Slightly Dramatic!” since 2009. In this incarnation, she is supported by three backing singers but it remains essentially a one-woman show, with bells on. The pianist Charlie Ferguson also assuming the character of a therapist to provide a framing device.
Ms Clark is not famous or particularly successful as a musical theater performer, in fact she tells us she now teaches middle school. Her story must be one of thousands; girls who dream of a life on the stage slowly having their sights lowered by the harsh realities of show-business and realizing that a plan B is called for. The thing that makes the show work is this honesty and self-deprecation, there is also an element of Rose’s Turn from Gypsy (a song she briefly quotes), this is someone showing you what they should have been, if only the world were a bit fairer.
There’s lots of witty use of well-known songs, some with lyric changes (Off-Broadway Baby) and some good original material by Clark and Ryan Scott Oliver.
The therapist framing device allows Clark to (over?)share her romantic and musical theater resumes, which seem inextricably linked. Her assuredness and charm as a performer stops the show from ever seeming indulgent or self-pitying. She sings all the songs well, and when she is joined by her backing singers the result is very impressive.
Taking us on a journey from singing along with Disney Princesses as a child, to teaching confused tweens as an adult (via onstage encounters with Josh Groban and tea room encounters with Bernadette Peters), the story ends up being heroic in spite of itself. This is someone who continues to work on their craft, and share their gift.
There are lots of laughs of recognition from the probably performer-heavy audience, but the truth being explored is more universal; honoring a dream while living a real life, where men are not quite the Disney heroes we’d been led to believe.
Solid vocal support was provided by Amanda Spinella, Whitney Tenney, and Mark Jacobson (who is also very funny as a brace of unsuitable boyfriends) and I would have liked to hear more of them, but an hour-long show must err on the side of brevity.
Crisp direction by Matt Ritchey ensures that nothing overstays its welcome.
“Slightly Dramatic!” is a really good example of a type of show that is often done badly, it might restore some of your faith in the form.