By Byrne Harrison
Steve Alden Nelson and Michael Sottile have given a Provincetown twist to their parody of the 2000 Julia Roberts vehicle "Erin Brockovich." Erin is now Derin Brockovich (Michael Sottile), a ridiculously well-endowed father of three with few marketable job skills. After losing a lawsuit over an accident caused by his amorous pursuits in a parked car, Derin convinces his toupeed and perpetually horny attorney Dick Small (Nicholas Guide) to hire him as an office clerk. As he takes Dick's calls, he sees a disturbing pattern emerging - something is shrinking the men of P'town... you know, down there. With Dick's permission, Derin investigates and quickly determines that the common thread among the victims is their incessant cell phone use. Could it be that Betty Lichter (Katilin Varkados), the billionaire who is flooding the Cape with cell phone towers could be behind it? Spoiler alert: She is.
But can Derin stop her with nothing more than his endowment, Dick Small's questionable legal talent, and the love of a good drag queen (Steve Alden Nelson)? Or will it take the confession of an insider who knows all of Betty Lichter's secrets?
Well, if you saw "Erin Brockovich," you can figure out the answers to all those questions. But getting there is half the fun.
As a parody of "Erin Brockovich," Derin Brockovich is a success. It lampoons the overblown aspects of the movie, while showing a certain admiration for the source material. As it currently stands, however, it stays a little too true to the film. A shorter, tighter script would benefit the production, and would concentrate the humor, as would some stronger direction, especially as to the pace and timing, by director Michael Sottile (who wears many, many hats in this production).
In addition, a little more work on the relationship between Derin and his biker-chick, drag queen paramour Whore-neeto (Steve Alden Nelson) would greatly help the story. It's clear why Whore-neeto instantly falls for Derin (the whole ridiculously well-endowed thing), but Derin's lack of any visible affection for Whore-neeto - she's just a convenient babysitter - makes it hard to understand his eventual decision to be with her.
Otherwise, the play has lots of laughs and features some terrific musical numbers by Michael Sottile. Sottile has a good ear for different styles of music and he plays with several in the show, from novelty numbers, to torch songs and power ballads. He also is a talented singer, as is most of the cast, so the musical numbers are definitely a high point of the production.
Acting is somewhat varied in the show. There is a fine line between being humorously broad and chewing scenery, and some of the cast give their molars a workout. The outstanding performer without a doubt is Kaitlin Varkados, especially in her role of Betty Lichter. Betty is brassy and over-the-top, but rooted in reality. Varkados plays up the comedy, but never goes overboard. She gives a fantastic performance.
Michael Sottile also excels as Derin, who despite his humorously large endowment and the degrading things he has to do to move the lawsuit forward is always portrayed as a fairly noble character. Sottile also brings the house down at several points with his powerful ballads.
Steve Alden Nelson brings a certain tragic dignity to Whore-neeto, which given the character's name, is no small feat. Again, this role is somewhat underwritten, and I would like to see more chemistry between Whore-neeto and Derin.
Technical elements are good, though striking and setting certain props and set pieces slow some of the scene changes. In a show like this, where pacing is so important, anything that can be done to speed it up is helpful. Karen Billard's costumes are well done, especially those for the female (or cross-dressing) characters.
I also should mention Chuck Saculla's choreography which was light and fun to watch, and appropriate for actors with varying dance skills.
Derin Brockovich: The Musical offers plenty for both the "Erin Brockovich" fans and those who aren't familiar with the movie. While the script and the production could use a little tweaking, overall the great songs, loads of laughter, and a high sexual inuendo content are just the thing for those who are looking for a fun night out.
Derin Brockovich: The Musical
Written by Steve Alden Nelson and Michael Sottile
Created by Steve Alden Nelson, Danny Schmitz and Michael Sottile
Directed by Michael Sottile
Original Music/Musical Direction/Orchestrations/Musical Programming/Sequencing: Michael Sottile
Choreographer: Chuck Saculla
Assistant Director: Melissa Nussbaum Freeman
Lighting Design: Michael Clark Wonson
Set Design: Matthew CW Page
Sound Design: Allen Gallant
Costume Design/Wig Stylist/Make-Up: Steve Carey
Costume Design: Karen Billard
Stage Manager: Roberta Eggart
Props Mistress: Chris M. Kerr
Sound Operator: Patrick Lamerson
Lighting Operator: Alex Turevich
Featuring: Michael Sottile (Derin Brockovich), Nicholas Gulde (Dick Small), Christopher Clough (Fisherman, Sheila Schmata, Escort #1, Ensemble), Clyde Shelby Mellert (Shermie Schmata, Creepy Guy, Ensemble), Steve Alden Nelson (Whore-neeto), Kaitlin Varkados (Betty Lichter, Mia, Ensemble)
The Provincetown Theatre
238 Bradford Street
Through September 4th