"A. . . MY NAME Will Always Be Alice" is the third entry in the "Alice" trilogy, composed of the most popular numbers from the first two shows -- "A . . . My Name Is Alice" and the sequel, "A . . . My Name Is Still Alice." Like the first two, this is a showcase for a company of female performers, and here we have some of Buffalo's best.
Particularly impressive is Debbie Pappas, who, while playing a wide variety of characters, never hits a false note -- or a flat one, for that matter. Her haunting ballad "I Sure Like the Boys" was a high point, and she nicely conveys the anxiety of the morning after in "Once and Only Thing." Her Miss Marmelstein-esque Harlequin romance number, "Trash," kicks the show into high gear early on.
The audience also loved Kamala Boeck's portrayal of a kindergarten teacher who psychologically disembowels a career woman on parents' night: "Your daughter is assertive and self-assured, and that kind of thing usually starts in the home." And the final blow: "Your cookies at the bake sale clearly weren't homemade."
On the whole, the musical performances are solid but the material somewhat uneven, with the sketches sometimes negatively affecting the pacing. Pamela Rose Mangus bears a lot of the weight of "Alice," performing two dark songs as well as a lengthy monologue. But she really shows her stuff in "Friends," a musical synopsis of a lifelong friendship in which she and Pappas conveyed the most emotion of the night.
Kamala Boeck is positively enchante in "The French Song" -- which features intense lyrics such as "bon ami, chaise longue and crepes Suzette," and Lona Geiser outdid Ally McBeal in her delightfully manic trip to the department store bridal registry. ("No, I'm not getting married. I just need things.")
Geiser and Boeck joined Mary Craig as audience members for male strippers in a real crowd pleaser, "Watching the Pretty Young Men." The rousing finale is Craig's "Lifelines" -- a kind of pro-wrinkles anthem ("every crease a masterpiece") that just may have you ousting your Oil of Olay.
It's obvious that "Alice" veteran Javier Bustillos knows his actresses as well as he knows his material and plays to their strengths. Choreography by Kathy Weese is understated and natural, and the multitalented cast is also nicely supported by pianist Maria Scaglione, who wowed the preview crowd with her very funny delivery of beatnik poetry (written by sitcom scribes Marta Kauffman and David Crane).
"A . . . My Name Will Always Be Alice" ("Alice 3"? "The Best of Alice"? "Alice's Greatest Hits"?) is a joint production of Summerfare and Buffalo United Artists at Daemen Theater.
A . . . My Name Will Always Be Alice
Rating: *** 1/2
Conceived by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd. Directed by Javier Bustillos for Summerfare Musical Theater with Buffalo United Artists.
In Daemen Theater though Oct. 17.