Veronica Franco ( Jenny Powers) is your typical 16th century girl next door. She is well liked, beautiful and has been engaged in simmering flirtation with Marco Venier ( James Snyder), Senator Pietra Venier (John Antony)’s son. Although she comes from a good family name, she is neither rich nor affluent. Because her family has no dowry to speak of, Marco, out of duty to his family, chooses not to marry Veronica. Beatrice Venier ( Megan McGinnis), Marco’s sister and Veronica’s best friend is similarly obliged, having the misfortune of marrying to a much older gentleman – for money not love.
Veronica’s mother Paola Franco ( Laila Robins) offers her daughter a second option to a nunnery – to become a courtesan. Paola explains the “Art of Seduction” involved in being a courtesan, as well as the social status that Veronica would be afforded. Veronica herself is quickly seduced by the access to knowledge and the chance at social prestige.
Her introduction into Venetian society is a splashing success. She captures hearts and minds: the former with her new found elegance and grace; the latter by matching wits and rhyme with Maffia Venier ( Bryce Ryness), the court’s ever-struggling pauper poet. The one person who is not intrigued by Veronica’s new vocation is Marco. Still, his persistent love for her does not prevent Marco from entering into a loveless marriage to Guilia de Lezze ( Morgan Weed).
But Veronica’s stunning debut is soon overshadowed by Maffia and Guilia de Lezze’s growing jealousy of her, and a war with the Ottoman Empire that lies just on the horizon. The lovers must decide if they will forsake all others to be together, of will the changing, darkening world keep them apart?
This Pasadena Playhouse production of Dangerous Beauty the Musical (Northwestern University, 2008) is a fine re-imagining of Margaret Rosenthal’s literary work The Honest Courtesan. For me, the musical easily outshining its filmic counterpart from 1998, and includes a very charismatic cast. Terrific vocal performances are all quite solidly paired with dramatic performances that are passionate, playful and poignant. Music by Michele Brourman and lyrics by Amanda McBroom provide colorful compliments to this crisp, engrossing tale of star-crossed lovers in Venice. Jeannine Dominy’s literary amalgam has a tone that feels and plays very much in the spirit of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Director Sheryl Kaller employs first-rate elements for this production and merges them into a truly entertaining evening. Though the stage may have been a touch too small for such a large company, Kaller’s savvy staging incorporates Benoit-Swan Pouffer’s choreography well, creating a lively kaleidoscope of characters in numbers like “Desire” and “Stripping Venice.” Fred Lassen’s Musical Director is especially strong, as are the vocal performances of Powers, McGinnis and Weed in “Hymn to the Madonna”, the second act ballad-triangle which features all the women of the ensemble. Soyon An’s costume choices were the perfect personification of character. Lighting design by Russell H. Champa deftly guides the show’s transitions and bridges the limitations of a set design that is quite beautiful but only marginally versatile.
Dangerous Beauty is an artful examination of beauty as the only form of power to which women, historically, have always had access. Pasadena Playhouse has a strong production on their hands – well worth braving the recent torrential rain. I strong suggest you check it out.
Dangerous Beauty the Musical is currently running for a limited engagement through March 13, 2011 at:
39 S. El Molino Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
Tuesday thru Saturday 8:00PM
Saturday & Sunday 2:00PM
$49.00 General - Rear Orchestra
$59.00 General - Front Orchestra
For More Information Call: 626-356-7529
Photo Credit: Jim Cox