|On Thin Ice: Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera|
You know the story: mall-rink leaper versus suburban princess. The plot, the baton, the knee, Gillooly. Triangle Productions’ run of Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera garnered national press when Tonya Harding agreed to attend opening night. Dozens of articles, and no one asked what “rock opera” would mean.
The creators, it turns out, meant “soap opera.” The show is unrelenting in tears and unkind to brassy women climbing above their station, but the music is to rock as Boone’s Farm is to strawberries. What the clubhouse revue most resembles is a sitcom musical episode, minus the cleverness and hummability and with a rhymed “fuck” in every other verse. The weak libretto, seemingly composed by a headline-scanning tweener on a deadline, irritates, and trite and repetitive choruses assault the listener.
Beth Willis’ full-voiced Tonya charms, and Lilla D’Mone does her best with Nancy Kerrigan’s underwritten and overextended role. Dale Johannes (Jeff Gillooly) wrings laughs from his co-conspirator slapstick, croons “When You Wake Up Sleeping In Your Car In Estacada” without condescension, and, suddenly slamming Tonya’s head against the floor, actually frightens.
Elizabeth Searle and Abigail Al-Doory originally wrote Tonya & Nancy as a one-act chamber opera before Triangle founder Don Horn learned of the production and, uh, collaborated (with Flavor of Love cue-sheet preparer Michael Teoli) on an additional 20 songs. The extended tale doesn’t lend itself to musical comedy: Domestic violence, child abuse and the desperations of cyclical poverty aren’t, by themselves, funny. They shouldn’t be, anyway. The audience started chortling at the first projected images of Tonya’s childhood trailer and, aside from a cappella beatings and one song’s hints of prepubescent gang rape, never let up.
Yes, they did show bits of the honeymoon and Tonya’s boxing career, but skating footage was conspicuously absent. It’s easier to make fun of the “pony-legged,” sequin-clad hell-raiser when you avoid what made her transcendent.
There’s a story to be told about trailer trash grasping an emblem of entitled femininity and enduring global scorn, but Horn isn’t up to the job. Courtney Love should score the Tonya & Nancy ballet.
SEE IT: World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon St., 239-5919. 8pm Thursdays-Saturdays. Closes March 8. $20-$25.