Lucky Guy

My first summer in relatively close proximity to New York has begun, and it's already paying off! Lucky Guy, playing its final weekend off-Broadway, had been on our radars for quite a while, based on the involvement of Kyle Dean Massey, so when it announced a premature closing date a few days ago (May 29 - tomorrow, as I write this), and my calendar had nothing listed for Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, I knew I'd be making a trip to the Little Shubert Theatre.

Overall, the story of Lucky Guy was extremely straightforward:
- Small-town country Boy (Billy Ray Jackson, played by Mr. Massey) wins a writing contest for his song, "Lucky Guy" - written about his dad, not a Lucky first, anyway - and comes to the big city of Nashville to record it.
- Boy meets Girl (Wanda Clark, played by the adorable Savannah Wise), and they fall in love.
- A local hairdresser (Chicky Lay, played by Jenn Colella) and her to-be-fiance of 13 years (G.C. Wright, played by Jim Newman) randomly appear and add to the hilarious cast of characters.
- Boy runs into some real characters who try to seduce him (Miss Jeannie Jeannine, played by Varla Jean Merman) and steal his song (used car salesman Big Al Wright, played by Leslie Jordan of "Will and Grace" fame).
- The truth about Boy's Seductress is revealed. In this case, the ever-so-humble Miss Jeannie Jeannine (read: lives in a mobile home with 28 rooms) didn't really grow up in a one-room shack - she's actually a debutante from the Main Line (HA) of Philadelphia!! (Cue dramatic riff from the pit.)
- Boy forgives Seductress by singing a touching song about friendship and learning from each other before parting ways for good.
- Boy reunites with the Girl of his dreams, AND gets to sing his song on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.
- Everyone gets married at the end! (Billy Ray and Wanda; Chicky and G.C.; and Big Al and Jeannie, who now has a bun in the oven!)

The show was exactly what I had expected: a large dose of camp, in the best sense of the term; sparkling, flashy costumes; lots of innocent sexual puns and bad jokes (the kind that make you laugh and groan at the same time); and Mr. Massey doing his thing as a singing, dancing cowboy! He was wonderful, the audience totally ate him up, and his songs were definitely the best parts of the show for me. I'm now a strong believer that Mr. Massey should just sing country music (of which I'm not even a fan) all the time. He's also got a gorgeous lower register that the scores of Next to Normal and Wicked didn't necessarily give him the chance to show off. He and Ms. Wise had a great sense of All-American chemistry together, with Ms. Wise displaying the perfect mix of innocence and spunk.

The obvious marketing pulls of the show were the two leads, drag queen Varla Jean Merman and Leslie Jordan. While each was hilarious and extremely well-cast in their role, I have to admit that both started to wear on me by the end of act one, and throughout act two. They fulfilled the jobs of their characters well, however, dancing around in ridiculous sequined costumes. Jordan frequently popped up in the most random of places in the middle of scenes, which actually never got old, and the physical juxtaposition between the towering Merman and 4' 11" Jordan provided many laughs as well.

Another highlight of the show were the Buckaroos, a four-man ensemble who served as somewhat of a Greek chorus and also popped up randomly in nearly every scene, dressed as everything from Indians to island dancers to mechanics to Elvis to angels with full-extension wings in the act one finale, "Do What You Can Do." Hilarious. My favorite moment of theirs took place in Miss Jeannie Jeannine's dressing room, when it turned out to be their heads under the several wigs resting on her cabinet and table, which then turned around to the audience and began to sing.

Despite the show's short run, plans for a cast recording are in place, and while some of the songs were better than others and none were extremely clever or complex, all were sung strongly by the talented cast. One of the show's best numbers, "Needle in a Haystack," ends with Billy Ray and Wanda sitting on a quaint little bench, sipping Cokes out of glass bottles, and that scene pretty much sums up the show - sugary sweet, cheesy, adorable, campy, and so predictable, but so much fun.


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