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DESPERATE MEASURES

DESPERATE MEASURES turns one of Shakespeare’s “problem play’s” MEASURE OF MEASURE, into a madcap musical melodrama that will leave you laughing. Gunslingers to Governors, Sheriff’s to Saloon Girls, and Priests to Postulants, this musical has a variety of characters up to zany hijinks for you to enjoy through February 12th at North Coast Repertory Theatre.

The show opens with a reminder that the show is going to be alot of fun, but if you have any issues with the plot then take that up with Shakespeare “And if that offends unduly, blame Will Shakespeare, not yours truly.”

The cast of  DESPERATE MEASURES
The cast of DESPERATE MEASURES

Johnny Blood (Michael Louis Cusimano) is in jail and sentenced to hang over an argument with a gentleman over Johnny’s girlfriend Bella (Samantha Duval) where she works as a saloon girl and lady of the night. Sheriff Green (Elijah Rock) doesn’t like the idea of Johnny being executed and hunts down Blood’s estranged sister Susanna (Jo Garcia-Reger) who is a novice nun and weeks away from taking her vows and being an actual Sister.

The Sheriff hopes Susanna can plead the case of her brother to the Governor (Rusty Ferracane) and get him to grant Johnny a pardon. Throw in a drunk and disillusioned priest (Rudy Martinez) who spouts philosophy and occasionally remembers which sacrament he’s performing and you’ve got all the makings of a farce.

In case you were wondering, the Governor, with his delightfully absurd name Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber is the villain of the piece. When Susanna meets with the Governor he says he will pardon her brother, on the condition that she trades her virtue for her brother’s freedom.

Sheriff Green has a plan though and assures Susanna that she should agree and he’ll get Bella to switch places when the lights go out. But can you trust a villainous Governor with ruthless ambitions to keep his word? It’s a fun farce to watch get to its “alls well that ends well” moment. (Different show source material, I know)

The music by David Friedman with book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg keep the production firmly tongue in cheek, and the show is full of witty back and forth and really fun songs. The band led by Craig Bohmler is excellent and it’s nice to see them on the stage.

Cusimano is charming and friendly as the not that bright Johnny, a nice foil to Garcia-Reger as his smart but prickly sister Susanna.

Rock brings authority and strategy to the Sheriff, with a great voice that makes “Stop There” into a show-stopping number. Duval as Bella is bubbly and funny, and the songs and scenes between her and Garcia-Reger together are some of the best in the show. Martinez is very funny as the Nietzsche loving priest who deals with his questions of faith by drowning them in alcohol.

Ferracane is hilarious as the Governor. With a dramatic costume change, and explaining why he’s doing this for everyone’s good in a monologue via song, he does everything but twirl his mustache like any good melodramatic bad guy.

Directed by Christopher Williams keeps the show moving and the speaking in rhyming couplets fun and as natural as possible, which is no small feat. The set by Marty Burnett, with lighting by Matt Novotny work together and the choreography by Jill Gorrie Rovatsos makes smart use of the space they have. Costumes by Elisa Benzoni and hair and wig design by Peter Herman work very well to sell the swap at the core of the plot.

The shows sexual politics, from the coercion (thanks Shakespeare) to the assumptions from others that Bella is more expendable because of her profession, didn’t sit that well with me. It’s important to note that Bella loves Johnny and when informed of the plans is happy to do this for him. Bella has a concrete plan for the future and is the only one who sees herself as an empowered career woman; plus, she’s adorable and sex-positive to boot. Johnny is hypocritical about the whole situation regarding both his sister and Bella and honestly, I would have left him the cell.

All that said, DESPERATE MEASURES is a fun and frothy musical that will make you laugh and leave you humming.

How To Get Tickets

DESPERATE MEASURES is playing through February 12th at North Coast Repertory Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at www.northcoastrep.org or by calling the Box Office (858) 481-1055.

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