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LA Theater Review

Polyester: The Musical

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Promotional material calls this Phil Olson–Wayland Pickard world premiere a combination of "Mamma Mia!" and "This Is Spinal Tap," but it lacks the catchy music of the former and wacky comedy of the latter. Instead, this two-hour disco-driven show contains no memorable songs and few clever lyrics, and Olson's book is not campy enough to be funny but is too ridiculous to be interesting. The cast of five tries to compensate by overacting, which quickly becomes grating. And the stilted direction by Pickard and Doug Engalla offers little visual stimulation.

In soap-opera fashion, "Polyester" stuffs a twist or turn into every few minutes. It's 1999, and a singing quartet, the Synchronistics, which broke up the night before its big break on "The Tonight Show," is performing for the first time in 20 years as part of a pledge drive to save a tiny public-access TV station. The breakup came thanks to Barry (Christopher Fairbanks) cheating on wife and band mate Mindy (Pamela Donnelly) with another of the Synchronistics, Peggy (Gwendolyn Druyor). The group's oldest and strangest member is Carl (Jim Staahl), who professes his love for Peggy, while Barry is trying to reconcile with the still-bitter Mindy. The remaining character is Lance (Robert Moon), the telethon's host and major Synchronistics fan.

Even overlooking that the band recalls all its harmonies and dance steps after a 20-year absence, the show's 16 songs incorporate simple disco beats, but the lyrics for most of them deal with personal issues, such as "A Howard Johnson's in Green Bay," which is where Barry and Peggy had sex. Other songs are simple disco retreads, including "Bump Your Booty Rump" and "The Funk Train." The book sacrifices continuity to try for laughs, including a joke about reality TV, which wasn't a phenomenon in 1999.

Although all the vocal performances are pleasant, the ensemble delivers almost all the dialogue with too much intensity, as if being louder and more outrageous will be funnier. With no set, near-total lack of blocking, and "Solid Gold"–style choreography by Michele Bernath, virtually no aspect of "Polyester" elevates it beyond a five-minute sketch that seems to keep going much longer than the disco era did.


Presented by DHM Entertainment at the Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Nov. 6–Dec. 20. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (323) 822-7898. www.theatermania.com.

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