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26 October 2010, 2:00 pm One Comment

Theater Review: Garrett Longo Shines in Philly’s Norma Doesmen

Submission by Christopher, TNG contributor

Gloria Swanson, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford…Beyonce.  What do all of these alleged divas have in common?  Only the fact that they aren’t diva enough to fill the shoes of Garrett Longo.

In case you were unable to guess from the title, Norma Doesmen is a musical parody of the classic 1950 film Sunset Boulevard starring Gloria Swanson.  Written and directed by Stephen Stahl, Garrett Longo plays the titular role of Norma.

The story takes place in 1949 at a run-down chateau on Sunset Boulevard where opportunistic and hopelessly broke Joe Dillis (played by Benjamin McClung) hides out from the repo men.  Unwittingly, he ends up falling into the lap of Norma, a deranged silent film actress who plans to use the unemployed script-writer as a vehicle for her return to stardom.

Naturally, the highlight of the show is Longo’s performance, due in no small part to his 20-year dedication to the art of female impersonation.  Of course he plays it for laughs, but viewers shouldn’t overlook Longo’s tongue-in-cheek homage to the black and white screen ladies that he perfectly evokes throughout the show.

Viewers also get treated to a surprisingly lush set that perfectly recreates the film noir period.  Plus, the boys might be interested to know that the cute and cheeky Joe spends a good two-thirds of the second act in little more than his skivvies (your welcome).

Overall, the biggest scene-stealer of the entire production, is Norma’s schizo sidekick and manservant Max (played by Matt Collins), who consistently makes you laugh with his smart lines, psychotic charm, and seemingly endless costume changes.  Careful about sitting in the front row, though.  With his throaty German accent, Max is a bit of a spitter.

If there is any disappointment in the play, it is the fact that the musical numbers are brief and don’t allow Jamie McKittrick (in the role of Joe’s narcoleptic love interest Betty) to properly showcase her amazing voice.  But stay on the lookout for the big climax where Betty, Max, and Norma “bring it home” in their big musical number.

A saucy and highly entertaining evening, old school fans of Sunset Boulevard will enjoy the many in-jokes that pay tribute to the original, and younger viewers will laugh out loud at the irreverence of the entire night.

The show runs from October, 20, 2010 through November 7 as per the following performance schedule: Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 7pm.  Tickets are $35 (which includes one drink).  For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Society Hill Playhouse’s box office at (215) 923-0210.

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