Since the first movie graced the screen, studio heads have always been protective of image and star making.
Headlining in 1936, almost two decades before Joe Gillis moved into the decaying mansion of Norma Desmond on Sunset Boulevard, two complex often unlikable studio exec’s become entangled in a furious campaign for survival when their opposing leading men fall in love…with each other.
With a witty and clever opening featuring veteran actors Lance Grant and Alice Fern rehearsing an identical movie as rivals Hoyt Baxter and his barely sober fiancé Clara Burns, The Max Factor Factor instantly promises an upbeat and fun parody as some struggle to gain and keep the limelight, while others labor with a life devouring secret.
In fact, secrets are at the heart of this production. Incredibly timely with a handful of central characters, The Max Factor Factor parades the deep attraction of Lance Grant (Jeff Scot Carey) and Hoyt Baxter (Jeffrey Christopher Todd) front and center. As these two boldly sneak around Hollywood to explore their attraction, Todd and Carey weave their way through a well-constructed story with style and comfort. Though their duets are highly impressive and a compliment to the music by Joe Blodgett, there are no career defining moments between the two men.
Superstar performances from Jessica Howell as Alice Stern and Jessica Snow Wilson as Clara Burns bring the house down. Howell offers a take-no-prisoners stance when she steps on stage and Wilson, as Clara is a vivacious mystery; she is idealistic with a one last drop of naiveté.
Heather Olt is brilliant in her portrayal of Cordelia Goodwife; who passionately believes and thoroughly enjoys bullying people with her absurd censorship crusade with the Legion of Rectitude. Olt’s hilarious song and dance that opens the second act is a spirited and rewarding walk on the wild side of a woman in need of an unquestionable kiss.
Stefan Rich, Kevin McIntyre and Kevin Michael Moran makes the most of their brief stage time, while Jordan Kai Burnett’s portrayal of cartoonish niece Eva Gallagher is notably funny.
In the end, it is the acting that propels the story and works its magic better than the singing, because of the skills of director Michael Sheppard the characters are well drawn and beautifully acted. While some notes crackled out of some characters like blows to the back of the head—the music and lyrics, often blended together, never reaches the peak of becoming an effective counter-part.
Shortly after an intimate first kiss between Lance and Hoyt is photographed, and hits the press—the people, the politics and the salacious scandals start to collapse with epic proportions. But leave it to pros to come up with a foolproof plan of attack and a silly new movie to save the day.
The Max Factor Factor is not just story about Hollywood. In every direction, it all touches on not giving up on your dreams, but more importantly, yourself. The Max Factor Factor is currently running now through August 31, 2014 at:
11136 Magnolia Blvd.
N. Hollywood, CA 91601