Friday, February 10, 2023

"Well-Behaved Women" by Theatre Elision at Elision Playhouse

They say that well-behaved women rarely make history. Well, the subjects of the song cycle Well-Behaved Women were anything but, and make history they did. They also make for a wonderful collection of songs that are each mini-musicals in themselves, and combine together for an inspiring, educational, and entertaining evening of music-theater. This show is tailor made for Theatre Elision, which for the past six years has been bringing us new or rarely done musicals featuring female casts and creative teams. A strong cast of seven women perform 15 songs in a staged concert style, and the evening builds from humor and lightness to poignant and moving songs, with a thrilling conclusion that brought tears to my eyes. It's a beautiful showcase of the things that women have accomplished throughout history in a system often stacked against them, their stories beautifully told through music. See it at Elision Playhouse in Crystal through February 18 only, with a special Valentine's/Galentine's Day performance that includes drinks and a pre-show concert.

Composer/lyricist Carmel Dean has written a diverse collection of songs, from funny and upbeat, to moving ballads, to thrilling group numbers. This incredible cast, each better than the last, performs them beautifully, both musically and emotionally. I only wish we had more of each of them, and especially more of them singing all together. This was a rare occasion when I wished the show was longer than it was (less than 90 minutes). Performers and highlights include:
  • Abigail Walker in a moving Harriet Tubman ballad, inviting us all on the railroad
  • Alexa Johnson in a chills-inducing song about Billie Jean "King of the Court" and her infamous defeat of Bobby Riggs
  • Beatrix Kelly in a strong performance as Celtic Warrior Queen Boudicca
  • Christine Wade as the woman who started it all, Eve, and Shakespeare's imaginary sister
  • Estefania Sedarski singing gorgeously in English and Spanish as Frieda Kahlo
  • Kym Chambers Otto showing us the woman behind the first man on the moon, a lovely ballad in which Janet Armstrong gets to tell her story
  • Serena Brook with the funniest performance of the night - Mary Magdalene complaining about being "The Only Girl at the Table," super relatable even though her story is 2000 years old

The performers are accompanied by Music Director Harrison Wade on the keyboard, making everything sound wonderful. The women play a bit of musical chairs, with six mismatched chairs onstage where those not singing sit and watch the performance. They sing in front of a mic and music stand, the occasional glances down at the music not taking anything away from the performance. Images and quotes are displayed at the back of the stage, with subtle lighting changes setting the tone. The songs are mini scenes that flow well from one to the other, and build up to the final increasingly more poignant numbers - a song by Lady Liberty accompanied by images of immigrants then and now, and protests that strive to make America live up to its promise; a rousing song by four "sisters in law" on the Supreme Court; and the final group number that ties everything together. (Direction by Lindsay Fitzgerald, lighting design by Laina Grendle.)

This show reminded me a little of SIX - historical women getting the chance to tell their own story, in song. It's that same sort of celebratory HERstory feeling. I highly recommend this show if you like women's history, or great song cycles, or rarely done musicals, or fantastic, entertaining, moving performances.

the well-behaved women (photo courtesy of Elision)


Join me and my fellow Twin Cities Theater Bloggers for a special event at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres! Get $20 off the ticket price for the March 4 matinee performance of the regional premiere of the super fun and heart-warming musical THE PROM, and stick around after the show for a talk-back with some of the cast. Find more info in the Facebook event here, and purchase discount tickets using code TCTB1 or by clicking on this link (discount valid for March 4 1pm performance only).