Though it won’t be for all tastes, R.R.R.E.D. / The Redhead Musical Manifesto is a wow of a showcase for a wow of a redheaded singer-songwriter, Katie Thompson, and her talented redheaded musical cohort Patrick Livingston.

R.R.R.E.D. / The Redhead Musical Manifesto was inspired by an actual 2005 news item reporting that “due to the recessive nature of the MC1R gene causing red hair, the number of redheads in the world will drastically dwindle and, by the year 2100, redheads may become extinct.”

The show, ably and irreverently directed by Kevin Cochran, with book by Adam Jackman, Thompson, and Livingston, and music and lyrics by Thompson, imagines a meeting of the Real Redheaded Revolutionary Evolutionary Defiance (R.R.R.E.D.), led by warrioress Victoria O’Hara (Thompson) and her eager intern G.J. Crockett (Livingston).

With framed photos of famous redheads (including Lucille Ball, Queen Elizabeth I, and the current Prince Harry), Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, Po (the red Teletubby), and Elmo (the red Muppet) adorning the wall and shelves behind them, Victoria and G.J. introduce to the audience themselves a la AA:

Victoria:  I’m Victoria
Audience: (all together) Hello, Victoria.

The dire “Redheads Face Extinction” statistic is then announced with the following warning: “If heads are gonna roll, they sure won’t be red,” followed by the first song, sorry, that should be ITML (Instructional Tutorial Musical Lesson), and a list of rules to be followed by all redheads:

1) Not red-No bed (i.e. only have sex with other redheads)
2) White lies-Red Heads (poke holes in that condom to assure your partner’s pregnancy)
3) Go down-Look up! (check below to see if you’re dealing with a natural redhead)
4) Squeal=Death (Don’t tell anyone what you’re up to)

(See what I mean about R.R.R.E.D. / The Redhead Musical Manifesto not being for everyone?)

Thompson’s rich, forceful, soulful vocals in the show’s many power ballads are the kind that raise the roof, with Livingston coming in a close second, and both are equally adept at piano accompaniment.  Their compositions, sung to one powerful melody after another, include “Free Love (I’m Selling),” “I Want Revenge (Sweet Ass Revenge),” and “Streaks Of Shame” (about blond-highlighted alcoholic sluts).

Each performance of R.R.R.E.D. / The Redhead Musical Manifesto features “Stirring testimonials,” performed by a trio of “witnesses” appearing in repertory.  Sunday’s performance featured StageSceneLA favorite, petite redheaded dynamo Shauna Markey as Stephanie Hicks, a sexually hyperactive pixie singing “I’m Not Pregnant (I’m Just Fat),” in which she belts out, “Not a bun in the oven, just some rolls on my waist.”  

Victoria announces that R.R.R.E.D.’s efforts to preserve redheads will begin with a Save The Redheads campaign.  (“It’s like Save The Whales, only prettier.”) It also involves Victoria helping G.J. with his biggest problem: FEAR.  After all, being called “fire crotch,” “ginger snatch,” and “Tabasco nuts” in 7th Grade gym class is a trauma that can last your whole life long.

The Testimonials are “sprinkled throughout the evening, like pepper, red pepper,” the second delivered by book-co-writer (and non-redhead) Jackman, appearing as the up-to-now heterosexual “Craig, from the lobby.” Bushy-haired Craig confesses that he’s a nervous wreck because “there’s this guy who traps me in an 80s love song.” Craig sings to his secret love, “I think you’re Superman and Robin Hood and Wolverine in one,” then accidentally lets on who it is. (One hint: it’s not Victoria and it’s not Stephanie.) Victoria gives Craig the musical advice, “Take One For The Team.” (“Now you can have your gay and eat it too.”)

Act 2 features a fun (though convoluted) fundraising plan (“It’s NOT a pyramid scheme!”) which guarantees each participant $17 million in just one month, and a third testimonial, this one by guest artist Laura Silverman. (Each performance promises at least one surprise guest.) Because Silverman’s song is a plaintive one, Victoria is not at all happy with this “unpeppy” ditty, though Silverman herself possesses a voice to be reckoned with.

If the above highlights seem more than a bit “out there,” it’s because they are, and not every theatergoer will “get” R.R.R.E.D. / The Redhead Musical Manifesto.  I happened to enjoy every wild and crazy minute of it.

Thompson and Livingston have great rapport (obviously these are two very good friends in real life) and the show is more than a little gay, as I gather is G.J. (Sarah Palin would NOT like this one.) Leonard Ogden has designed the imaginative set, projections, and costumes (including Victoria and G.J.’s military militia garb (naturally in shades of red), and David Darwin deserves high marks for the lighting design.


Be sure to check out the refreshments and for sale items in the red lobby, each and every one of them red, or starring a redhead.

You don’t have to have red hair to love R.R.R.E.D. / The Redhead Musical Manifesto, but you do have to be open-minded, with a taste for quirky humor and bad taste. Since I am both, I loved every redheaded minute of it.

Grove Center Theatre, 1111b West Olive Blvd, Burbank. 

–Steven Stanley
September 7, 2008
                                                 Photos: Eric Scot/GTC

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