Taboo Ought To Be Better, But It Could Be a Whole Lot Worse


As you’ve no doubt already heard, Taboo is distinctly not faboo. Still, it’s a lot more entertaining than you might expect. Its chief problem, aside from its producer’s gift for generating bad publicity, turns out to be dramaturgical: Like the children who waste their nights in dance clubs, it has no particular reason for existing and no particular story to tell. Everybody in it has the same motivation: to be a star. One—Boy George—actually makes it but almost wrecks it; another dies; the survivors squabble and grumble. You’ve seen the inevitable scenes that result many times before, some of them in that other amiable mediocrity, The Boy From Oz; here they’re occasionally pepped up by the zingers in Charles Busch’s shaky but spunky script.

Unlike Boy From Oz, Taboo lacks a star to carry it to the heights. George O’Dowd himself, as the grunge-epic performance artist Leigh Bowery, supplies authenticity rather than conviction. But he gets strongly likable support: Euan Morton makes a touching figure of the young George; Liz McCartney, Sarah Uriarte Berry, and Jeffrey Carlson are lively presences. Raúl Esparza, playing a sort of camp-queen Jiminy Cricket to the hero, seems to aspire to Harvey Fierstein’s vocal impairments, but his Maggie Smith inflections are incisively apt. O’Dowd’s songs, new and old, are unthea-trical but not unlistenable, his lyrics always slightly better than casual pop-radio hearings might have led you to expect. All in all, Taboo feels more like a musical and less like the Chinese water torture than many recent Broadway entertainments.