Chicago Theatre Review
Keeping It Fresh
Plastic Revolution – The New Colony
It’s 1950 and the Donna Reed/June Cleaver-inspired housewives are back and ready to burp those plastic food storage containers all over again. It’s New Colony’s redux of their 2009 tongue-in-cheek Tupperware chamber musical, now fully staged and playing with guts and glory. The newly revised and expanded musical, with a book and lyrics by Will Cavedo and Andrew Hobgood, and a score composed by Julie Nichols, tells the story of Delores Clarke, a woman filled with sadness and regret.
As a recently widowed housewife, Delores now regrets leaving her teaching career to follow her military husband to the pre-Disney swamp town of Kissimmee, Florida. Just as she begins her opening number, Delores is suddenly interrupted by Tupperware queen and vice president of marketing, Brownie Wise, who unexpectedly appears in her picture window like a grinning Peter Pan. She offers Delores the perfect plan to help jumpstart her dismal life while, at the same time, promote sales for Earl Tupper’s miraculous new invention aimed at giving women more time for their families and themselves. Miss Wise recruits and teaches Delores how to throw exciting social soirees for her friends and neighbors, during which Tupperware will be sold. However Lilah, the self-proclaimed neighborhood leader, views the “plastic revolution” as unAmerican and decides to boycott the parties. It’s against this friction that the musical’s main conflict must be resolved.
This fresh, new musical is not only fun but educational, as it provides audiences with a brief history of the plastic food storage containers, while telling a sweetly inspiring story about how one woman turns her life around. In many ways, this musical illustrates how the seeds of the Women’s Lib Movement germinated and began blossoming down in the Sunshine state, as housewives began discovering the joys of financial independence and power.
Director Evan Linder, together with musical director Charlotte Rivard-Hoster and choreographer Steve Love, have worked together orchestrating a delightful show that’s zippy, colorful and contagious. All of the characters are engaging and magnetic, with Linder mining every comic moment from the newly-revised script. The songs are catchy and sung with enough pizzazz to put smiles on the faces of every audience member. Love’s dance numbers have been choreographed with style and cleverness, showcasing the strengths of his predominantly female cast. Featuring a variety of dance styles, from a jazzy Vegas extravaganza to a show-stopping tap routine, the musical turns into a food container fantasy.
Sasha Smith leads her talented cast as a gently feisty Delores, a young woman confident that life will yield more for her than simply sitting around mourning in her widow’s weeds and lamenting the road not taken. With a warm smile, a great singing voice and a genuine, likable demeanor, Ms. Smith is perfect in this role. Cassie Thompson’s Brownie Wise is fierce, funny and full of charm. Delores‘ new friends along the Floridian cul de sac are played with enthusiasm and charisma by Daeshawna Cook as cautious Kitty, Elise Mayfield as an energetic Gertie and Lizzie Schwarzrock as flighty former beauty queen, Gladys. In one interesting bit of casting that elevates this production to the comic level of a Monty Python sketch, Danny Taylor slips into the crinolines and heels of Lilah, the all-controlling neighborhood matriarch. Mr. Taylor is strong and does an excellent job with his drag performance that’s never anything but honest. Joshua R. Bartlett completes the cast, playing a mailman, a Tupperware executive and, in a flashback sequence, Delores‘ husband Henry. In Mr. Bartlett’s impressive show-stopping scene he becomes a silver-clad, silver-throated, tap dancing physical embodiment of the food-keeping phenomenon.
This musical, which never takes itself too seriously, has moments of unexpected brilliance, absurdity and nostalgic playfulness. The show is simply a romping good time. True, there’s a tiny educational component buried within the story, but mostly this musical’s simply fun, offering a Tupperware container of heart. It’s a chance to join some quirky characters in an escape to a more innocent time, and, when all’s said and done, it’s an opportunity to laugh out loud.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented January 16-February 22 by The New Colony at the Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at 773-398-7028 or by going to www.thenewcolony.org.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.