Murder by Song
No Way to Treat a Lady at the Adobe Theater
By Steven Robert Allen
It's hard to resist a singing killer. The spectacle of someone strangling another person while belting out a catchy tune is something almost anyone can enjoy.
Witness the current production of No Way to Treat a Lady at the Adobe Theater. The venerable North Valley theater isn't exactly known for its edginess. The Adobe caters to an older crowd than the theaters located closer to Downtown and the University. I've seen several great shows there over the years, but they tend to be of a more traditional make.
No matter what age you are, though, a musical about a serial killer is just straight-up good entertainment. No Way to Treat a Lady might not be the most original show on the planet, but the audience on opening night, made up largely of elders, seemed to love the dark, musical humor.
The story is a simple and familiar one. World-renowned Broadway superstar Alexandra Gill (Joanne Daugherty) is dead. Her lengthy, glamorous obituary has made it into every paper in the city, including the New York Times. Even in death, though, Alexandra hounds her unsuccessful son, Kit (David McMullin), to make something of his pathetic life. An out of work actor with a minor talent for impersonations, Kit decides he's going to make a big public splash in a surefire way—by stalking and murdering victims reminiscent, in one way or another, of his own mother.
Meanwhile, police detective Morris Brummell (P. MacLean Zehler) is struggling to live up to the high expectations of his own mother (Jane Hoffman), who lives with him in a tiny apartment in Manhattan. Morris is put on the case of The Strangler, and once the killer begins calling him to taunt him for his ineptness, the detective becomes obsessed with tracking him down. This puts a serious damper on his new romance with upscale trust fund baby Sarah Stone (Lisette Herrera).
You've seen this kind of thing before, a killer and his pursuer who form a close relationship, who are more similar than either cares to admit. Both Morris and Kit struggle with expectations placed on them by their mothers and themselves. As always, the hero takes an honorable path while the villain resorts to hideous violence.
The elaborate set constructed by Barbara Bock is very attractive. It's also ingeniously organized, which is extremely important in this particular production due to the intricacy of the scene shifts and choreography. Live music by Joe McCanna (piano), Vance Bass (bass) and Andrea Carvey (percussion) provides a smooth and competent foundation for the action.
The singing is adequate throughout but rarely more than that. Likewise, some of the numbers, especially in the first half of the show, drag out a bit longer than they probably should. Yet there were several decent performances. Zehler does a fine job as the shlubby, salt-of-the-earth cop looking for love in all the right places. Hoffman rips off several funny insults as his overbearing mother. The best performance probably came from McMullin as Kit who put a lot of zany, sinister energy into the role of a murderer with a taste for show tunes.
No Way to Treat a Lady might not be perfect—pulling off a musical at a community theater in Albuquerque is no easy task—but it's mostly good, stupid fun. And you might as well bring your own mother along. Who knows? She might just learn something.
No Way to Treat a Lady, a musical by Douglas J. Cohen, directed by Cy Hoffman, runs through Nov. 6 at the Adobe Theater (9813 Fourth Street NW). Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. $14 general, $12 students/seniors. 898-9222.
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