Broadway’s new Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson might sound like a female Leap of Faith, but it’s actually Chaplin The Musical with girls’ clothes.
Both shows attempt to deal with an icon’s entire life.
Both focus on the icon’s mother fixation.
Both feature a famous gossip columnist from that era trying to land scoops. (For Chaplin, it’s Hedda. For Scandalous It’s Louella.)
Both have a female emerging to make shocking claims about one of the main characters.
Both have a metaphorical boxing scene to represent personal battles.
Both feature silent movies.
And both have Charlie Chaplin as a character!
But Scandalous is a way more schizo show. (This isn’t a review, by the way–just my scattered observations.)
Act One is filled with way too many bombastic songs–basically one musical breakdown after another for the lady evangelist–but there’s fire there, and some kind of electricity that reminded me of the better bits from Carrie the Musical.
And Broadway favorite Carolee Carmello is committed and powerful in the role of Aimee.
Even when the sound broke down and a loud buzzing noise caused the show to be stopped in the middle at the performance I saw, it didn’t seem to throw Carmello and she came back, firing on all cylinders.
But Act Two is a mess. It’s alternately campy and dull, featuring a stock black character and ending with one more screechy number.
The lavish set involves a white stairway to heaven that Scandalous might well end up ascending, if the reviews are bad.
But though the show does slide into a pit of absurdity, it would be scandalous to say it’s all just junk.
Good for lyricist and book writer Kathie Lee Gifford for stretching with something this ambitious.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 15, 2012