Take a classic girl detective, throw in more 90's references than you can shake a Beanie Baby at and before you can say, "Whazuuuuup?!" you've got the latest show from STAGEright, "Calling Nancy Drew". And while the show could totally use some tightening, it's a fun, frothy and radical good time.
As the title suggests, we join Nancy Drew (Mary Hould), America's favorite Titian Haired Girl Super Sleuth, fresh off her latest episode … er ... I mean, case. But now with no mysteries to solve, she's bored. Not to worry, her best friends, the tomboyish George (Rachel Brun) and the pleasantly plump Bess (Shermona Mitchell) are on hand along with her dreamy yet oddly chaste boyfriend Ned (Jacob Mucha) to help her through her dull times. But now, the obviously evil (because she wears and eye patch) Neleh (Pat Haines-Ainsworth) has arrived stir up some trouble. But this time the victim is Nancy herself!
Nancy is no longer that spunky teen from the 40's or even the 70's (for those of us old enough to remember the TV show) but now it's the 90's and writer Catherine Bush has transported Nancy into the world of a sit-com and made her sing and dance. The songs by Bush and composer Gary Bartholomew are cute but go on entirely too long and really don't lend much to the story other than a few more 90's references. This leads me to the first bit of tightening the show needs, the script itself. The songs are so superfluous that at times I wished they were gone all together and we could get back to the story.
But beyond the script and songs, the production itself can use some work. If you're going to go for the 90's sit-com style then go for it. And while some of the lack of focus could be the need for some more rehearsal, without that focus the show just feels a little sloppy at times.
Hould is fun as the eponymous girl detective and keeps her character throughout but I could have used a few more levels from her as the character began to wear on me. Russ Kay as both Nancy's Father Carson as well as their housekeeper Hannah has several moments where he shines, especially as the Teutonic House Frau, but suffers from the lack of focus I mentioned more than most. Haines-Ainsworth is cartoonishly evil as Nancy's villain du jour and has a hilarious seduction scene. And as the Jock one minute, fabulous the next Ned, Mucha brings in a lot of the laughs but also could use some more commitment to the gag. The two stand outs from the cast had to be Brun and Mitchell as Nancy's often overlooked and misunderstood BFF's. Both exhibited some of the best character development and comedic timing in the production and have great voices to boot. But even they suffered occasionally from a lack of focus as ad libs were murmured under the breath. If the jokes are funny then let's say them and make them part of the show and not muttered while someone else's line is going on.
With a brilliantly functional and stylistic set from Brandon Estrella "Calling Nancy Drew" has the potential for greatness, but again, the watchword for this show would be focus. Tighten up and commit to the jokes and "Calling Nancy Drew" could be more fun than a "Saved by the Bell" marathon.
"Calling Nancy Drew" from STAGEright plays at Theatre Off Jackson through August 18th. For tickets or information, visit them online at www.seattlestageright.org.
Photo credit: J.D. Welch