Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: A Delicious Dish

By Michael Block

Something fresh is on the menu at the Laurie Beechman. The Hell’s Kitchenettes are fresh off the griddle as they bring a new drag musical to the stage in pleasantly surprising fashion. Written by Michael LaMasa, The Hell’s Kitchenettes is a feel-good musical with a drag twist.
photo by Michael Block
Following the antics of three waitresses named Mabel Syrup, Pam Cakes, and Bette Griddler, the girls have an open rehearsal as they prepare for a competition. Should they win the cash prize, their hopes for revising “diner theater” can be realized. As a rare book musical that graced the Laurie Beechman stage, The Hell’s Kitchenettes has the potential to take off as a giant hit, it just needs a little polish and logic. The main conceit is that this is an open rehearsal for us, the audienc, to observe. It’s quite quickly that the trio forgets that there are others in the room aside from them. There are certain conversations that you’d think the girls would not want us to hear, but alas, we’re still there. By perhaps removing this gimmick and allowing us to observe solely as audience members in the classic sense will allow the piece to move along. That being said, the comedy is fabulously cheap, dripping in camp. The drag component pays homage to stories written by the likes of Charles Busch and Charles Ludlam. As this is a musical, LaMasa brings in the songbook of the Andrew Sisters as well as some modern reimagined classics like the Postmodern Jukebox version of “Oops I Did It Again.” Having these reimagined numbers that fit the characters works, yet there’s something charming about maintaining the integrity of the perceived period through the classic numbers. It’s easy to say that the trio are a sensationalized stock characters. There are moments that one for one, you could compare Mabel, Bette, and Pam to The Golden Girls, sans Sophia. Simply based on their dynamics, Mabel has the aura of Blanche, Bette is the robust Dorothy, and Pam is the dim Rose. As the show grows over time, LaMasa and co. can develop the characters so they can live in their own personality.
As the writer of the piece, Michael LaMasa did a phenomenal job allowing this trio show to be a welcome ensemble piece. LaMasa’s Bette Griddler is the glue that keeps the group together. As the show expands to become a grander piece, LaMasa could beef up Bette as she has the thinnest arc. Jackie Cox as Mabel is a fun floozy. On stage, Jackie Cox tends to be the dumb sidekick. In this piece, it’s a joy to watch her kick up the sex appeal. Mabel’s sexual innuendos and one-liners are hilarious. When it comes to comic timing perfection, James Mills as Pam Cakes steals the show. Mills makes Cakes dumb but charming. While she may be the butt of the jokes, she takes it in strides.
The Hell’s Kitchenettes may be gone for now, but they will be back and hopefully bigger than before. This is a show that can tour. It is a show that can have a regional run. It is a show that you wish you created because it’s a delicious dish.