Review: “It’s a Fabulous Life” is Funny, Sexy and Sweet
photos via John MacLellan
My theatre date described Act One of the Richmond Triangle Players It’s a Fabulous Life as “kitschy cute.” With catchy musical numbers, corny costumes, raunchy one-liners, and plenty of bare skin, “Fabulous” would have been a fun time if “kitschy cute” was all it was. But Act Two adds in a love-yourself-in-your-own-skin message, and tear-jerker songs like “How Could I love You, “ “Every Color is a Rainbow,” and “God Bless the Road Less Traveled By,” to make It’s a Fabulous Life a worthy retelling of the Christmas classic.
The Lavender Players have reached crunch time. They are just days away from opening night of their annual Christmas musical, Randolph the Rainbow Reindeer, and stage manager Frank (Craig Smith) is having a hell of a time keeping rehearsal on track. Joe (Chris Hester) the show’s writer and lead actor is having a personal crisis…he’s having trouble with boyfriend Luis (Ramon Licairac) over his parents’ refusal to come to Richmond for the holidays to meet their gay son’s boyfriend. The Lavender Players are infighting over the best solos, and the best lines. And diva Carlo (Dan Cimo) just thinks she should be the star of the show.
Passions come to a boil and Joe wishes he hadn’t been born gay. And just like in its namesake, It’s a Wonderful Life,” Joe gets a visit from Arthur (think Clarence), the Lavender Players’ beloved former mentor. Act Two shows us what Joe’s life would have been like had he been a baseball-loving, corporate- job-going, button down shirt-wearing straight guy. And Arthur leads him on the tour of how his friends turn out without Joe in their life. Luis never comes out and ends up in an unhappy marriage, and Frank overdoses on pills. Only Ms. Carlotta (Carlo) seems to have thrived, and it is a performance by Carlotta and her girls that opens Joe’s eyes to the colorful, fabulous world he has left behind. Once Joe realizes that he really does love being gay—even though it may be the more difficult path—the show goes on with new energy and passion.
It’s a Fabulous Life had a fabulous cast (I’m a little bit in love with Chris Hester), and a feel good message. The Triangle Players’ production is fun for people across the spectrum (though the straight men in the audience may get a little squirmy during The Pole Got Hot! Number). Although there were a few opening night jitters, and a couple of drunken revelers who managed to not ruin the evening despite their best efforts, “It’s a Fabulous Life” was funny, sexy and sweet.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
Subtlety would have better suited the tone of the play.February 27, 2017
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