Inanity Defense

Why can't show folk tell duck from turkey?

Mimi LeDuck is one of the great mysteries of the theatrical universe. People of high professional standing are involved. The show boasts at least eight producers, six of whom are known quantities with reasonable credentials; those members of its better-known design team are even more impressive, while its eight-person cast's combined credits add up to nearly three centuries' worth of solid onstage experience. And yet all of these skilled theater hands, at least some of whom had presumably read the script and heard the score, signed on to participate in something called Mimi LeDuck, about a Mormon housewife who paints ducks for a living until she abandons Ketchum, Idaho, and her accountant husband to discover her destiny in Paris. The show is up and running, and their names are on the program, so they all must have signed their contracts and somebody must have signed some checks. Why did they do it?

The most likely answer: Mimi LeDuck's inanity, unlike the inanity of standard-make pop-rock musicals, has the innocence of pure self- indulgence—rather like last year's Broadway disaster In My Life, only without the egomaniac pretensions. People in showbiz always find innocence attractive; it's such a nice change from the cynical awareness that everything's just an illusion. Its disconnect from reality—Mimi comes about as close to real life in Paris as Wal-Mart does to fair labor practices—raises no warning flags with musical-theater folk, accustomed to overstepping reality's bounds. The maddening part is the extent to which the pros have caught the material's innocently feckless spirit; if its substance were any good at all, the results would be delightful. As it is, only Eartha Kitt, who owns the deep theatrical secret of heightened personality, can rise above such helplessly inept stuff. If you asked her to sing the Empire State Building, she could probably rise above that too. Everyone else involved, alas, is stuck with LeDuck.

 
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