Mirror, Mirror The Musical, November Christine’s enjoyable “modern fairy tale about a young black woman who is under the spell of a little ‘white’ lie,” has transferred from the Hollywood Fringe Festival to the Chromolume Theatre in a production that, even taking into consideration the technical glitches that are part and parcel of a dress rehearsal (which this reviewer was invited to preview), comes across more staged reading than the “first fully-produced production” it bills itself as.
Mirror, Mirror’s premise is an intriguing one despite its strains on logic.
African-American gazillionairess Mandi Gottadolla (Ashley Lynette Brown) has been raised by her well-meaning Caucasian adoptive parents as white, the better to “protect” her from the racism of the outside world.
To do so, the Gottadollas have stripped their mansion of its mirrors and hired homeless blonde beauty Ashley Sue (Jolie Adamson) to be the face Mandi sees whenever she regards herself in the family’s Very Special Looking Glass.
And so Mandi reaches young womanhood unaware that she is anything but lily white. (One can only assume that her now sadly deceased Mommy and Daddy kept her homeschooled and that Mandi has somehow managed never to look at those parts of her body that don’t require a mirror to be seen.)
Regardless of her unusual circumstances, our fairy princess has found herself a hot and hunky prince charming of a boyfriend who’s in on the charade (hot and hunky Derek Carley as Daniel Goodman) in addition to a pair of celebrity twin best friends (Hayley Marshall and understudy Aly Fainbarg as Bee-Bee and Dee-Dee MacHelstein) who could give the Kardashian girls a run for their fame and fortune.
Did I mention that Mandi is an aspiring New York City actress with a headshot that must cause a certain confusion since it matches Ashley Sue’s face and not her own?
Perhaps not surprisingly, our heroine is finding it hard to book that illusive starring role on Broadway, and so (like any gazillionairess worth her bank account) Mandi decides to bankroll her own original musical adaptation of (what else?) Snow White.
In not only writing Mirror, Mirror’s book, music, and lyrics but in opting to direct it herself, Christine may have bitten off more than she can chew, and both the musical and its current staging could benefit from an outside voice.
Even so, there is much to enjoy in Mirror, Mirror, most particularly its eclectic collection of catchy songs.
A number of scenes work quite well too, especially those involving assorted female characters with decidedly male physical characteristics, and Mandi’s relationship with Daniel manages to be believable despite the absurdities around them.
Musical theater aficionados will get a kick out of a “You Don’t Know This Man” riff straight out of Jason Robert Brown’s Parade, and songwriter Christine takes a John Kander melody and gives it delicious new lyrics in a take-off on Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango.” And there’s a cute Snow White sequence in which sock puppets take the place of striking dwarfs.
Less successful are Mirror Mirror’s opening number, one intended to set the New York scene but which needs more pizzazz (and volume) to work, and the show’s 11th-hour song in which Mandi and Ashley actually debate who of the two faces more problems because of her color.
Mirror, Mirror benefits enormously from a number of terrific performers, from the oh-so likable Brown to the soap-star handsome Carley to the blondacious Adamson, all three of whom possess Broadway-ready pipes.
Petite powerhouses Marshall and Fainbarg are great fun to watch as Bee-Bee and Dee-Dee, Sherry Mandujano is a fabulous force of nature as Margarita Torres et al, and Jonny Hsu Lee proves himself New York’s latest gift to L.A. musical theater in one delicious cameo after another, most of them in ladies’ wear and quite a few with an accent so thick you’d need some very sharp chopsticks to cut it.
Musical director Luis “Tony” Gonzalez provides expert accompaniment throughout, though a number of cast members could work on projecting their voices over keyboard backup and in dialog sequences.
On a less positive note, theatergoers who have come to expect Grade A production design as part of their 99-seat experience will have to adjust their expectations with Mirror, Mirror, performed as it is on a barer-than-bare blackbox stage with rudimentary lighting (by Lauren J. Peters, who does her best with the equipment at her disposal) and backstage glimpses whenever upstage curtains get left even slightly open post entrances and exits.
Costumes, however, are quite good, and there are many of them in a great variety of styles. Nora Katz is stage manager.
Though Mirror, Mirror remains more “Hollywood Fringe Reprise” than fully-staged production, I enjoyed much of it, and discovered some terrific new performing talent in the bargain.
Chromolume Theatre at the Attic, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles. Through October 4. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00. Sundays at 3:00. Reservations: 323 510-2688
September 10, 2015