Respect: The Girl Em-Powered Musical
El Portal Theatre, Los Angeles
“No doubt about it: Respect packs plenty of entertainment value,” said F. Kathleen Foley in the Los Angeles Times. Written by college professor–turned–playwright Dorothy Marcic and performed by a crack quartet of female singer-dancers, the two-hour show covers nearly a century of popular songs, from “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine” to “I Wanna Be Loved By You” to “Material Girl.” Because Marcic wants audiences to reconsider the attitudes toward women expressed by these songs, the show can feels heavy-handed and academic at times. But the songs are powerfully executed, and women in the audience who remember the days of the Equal Rights Amendment and bra-burning activism “will probably get a few goosebumps from the sheer feminist brio that informs the evening.”
Marcic only falters when she tries to connect the songs to her own autobiography, said Julio Martinez in Variety. A digression involving the playwright’s own maternal lineage distracts from the show’s main themes and takes away from the musical’s true strength—namely, the “standout vocal abilities of the four ladies onstage.” Lead performer Susan Carr George displays deft vocal and dancing prowess on numbers such as “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Whatever Lola Wants,” and Jackie Seiden proves a real find, belting out a broad range of fare, from the Chiffons’ “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” to Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.” Though the script could use some judicious honing, Respect succeeds as a “tuneful reminder of the power and relevance of popular music throughout history,” and could have a future on Broadway.