At the start of Broom Street Theater's production of Vogue, the narrator (Odari McWhorter) warns, "this is 90 minutes and $8 that you won't get back." An hour and a half later, I actually felt the sometimes bizarre and chaotic show was a good return on the investment of that time and money.
This "schlock-u-mentary" (their description, not mine) provides a fictionalized account of Vogue Records' brief moment in the sun in the 1940s. Tom Saffady (Marisa Kahler), an inventor and owner of Sav-Way Industries in Detroit, developed an innovative, yet doomed line of picture discs. Colorful and kitschy illustrations were embedded into records of songs like "G'wan Home, Your Mudder's Callin" and "La Rumbita Tropical." The play sprinkles in some facts amid wild and bawdy speculation as to what Saffady's early years were like and re-creates auditions and performances of recording artists as well as production troubles at the plant and the ultimate demise of the label.
Liz Mael and Carter Franz shine as Lulu Bell and Scotty, a country duo on the label. They lip-synch and dance to two hilarious Vogue ditties ("I Get a Kick Out of Corn" and "In the Dog House") with ideal choreography by Lindsey Rios Pagelow. A bit less successful were Kahler and McWhorter's struggles with the screwball comedy-ish fast-paced patter. When playing for speed, enunciation can't be thrown out with the bathwater.
Throughout the proceedings, images of the actual Vogue picture records are projected on a sparse backdrop. I was intrigued by Saffady's quirky endeavor, and in a way this irreverent show is a fitting tribute to his vision.
When I recall elements of the show (backup vocals by a monkey puppet, dismembered limbs, a dildo-wagging stork, the entire cast voguing, and solicitous flight attendants), it sounds like a mess, but somehow these disparate elements, mixed with the cast's enthusiasm and chutzpah, make for an interesting evening.