Review: Moreau's voice highlights 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown'

Musical tells the story of Titanic survivor Margaret Tobin Brown

'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' plays through April 2 at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.  Performances are Tuesday through Sunday evenings & selected matinees. Tickets are $27 - $51 with group discounts available for parties of 20 or more. Call (239) 278-4422 or go online to BroadwayPalm.com. Courtesy Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

"The Unsinkable Molly Brown" plays through April 2 at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre. Performances are Tuesday through Sunday evenings & selected matinees. Tickets are $27 - $51 with group discounts available for parties of 20 or more. Call (239) 278-4422 or go online to BroadwayPalm.com. Courtesy Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

Want to know more about Lisa LeCuyer, the actress playing Molly Brown? Check out her website, lisalecuyer.com

Want to find out more about Scott Moreau? Check out his website - scottmoreau.com - and find samples of his work.

What: Musical about the life of Titanic survivor Molly Brown

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday and selected matinees through April 2.

Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)

Cost: $27-$51; group discounts available.

Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com

Something Else: Ticket prices include meal & show; show-only tickets available

On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.

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— The real Margaret Tobin Brown - later known as "unsinkable" - survived three brothers, an iceberg and the claws of Denver society. She never faced an overflowing crowd at the Broadway Palm - but Lisa LeCuyer and Scott Moreau did - bringing the audience to its feet at Friday night's opening of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."

"Molly Brown" tells a highly fictionalized account of Colorado socialite Margaret Brown, who hooked a fabulously rich miner husband and later survived the sinking of the Titanic. Meredith Wilson wrote the music and lyrics with a book by Richard Morris. Tammy Grimes played the role on Broadway, Debby Reynolds on film and Kathy Bates in movie "Titanic." The show includes popular songs "I Ain't Down Yet" and "Belly Up to the Bar, Boys."

LeCuyer takes the young Molly Tobin from girlhood to womanhood with a song in her heart and an enormous smile beaming off her face. She chirps the iconic "I Ain't Down Yet" with three rambunctious brothers to start the evening and follows that with "Belly Up to the Bar, Boys." A bar scene where Molly meet "Leadville" Johnny Brown for the first time brings some of the night's biggest laughs - and LeCuyer and Moreau make the most of their scenes together.

The actress seems almost too slight to play the role - she makes up for it by projecting a brassy charm. LeCuyer also totes a carefree spirit with her as easily as Molly's rucksack. Her comedy chops serve the jolly character well, lifting the show through several patches of dated scripting.

For all that the show is titled "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," Moreau (Johnny "Leadville" Brown) stirs the crowd the most by belting out ballads in a voice that spreads over the cavernous theater like honey. Although Moreau has been in more than 30 Broadway Palm productions, this might be the first one in years to showcase his voice to such a degree. You knew he could sing - you didn't know he could sing like this. Look for a humorous scene when he lights $300,000 on fire after Molly hid the money in a stove.

Beyond the leads, few characters stand out in the show's criminally weak book. James D. Heffernan, Jr., gets a few growls and grumps at Molly's Irish father and James Lane is amusingly cast as a pair of sympathetic clergymen.

By today's standards, the show, written in 1960, seems dated, as it ignores much of what's "interesting" about Molly Tobin Brown; she was a tireless activist and crusader for women's rights, for example. Wilson's lovely music reflects the styles of the period - and Loren Strickland's 7-piece orchestra pumps it out with style - but there's not a true "showstopper" on the night. While Director M. Seth Reines moves the production along as fast as he can - "Molly Brown" might feel a bit slow to audiences accustomed to more modern shows.

Nevertheless, the gorgeous sets, lush costumes and especially Scott Moreau's voice more than make up for any cracks. Dottie Lester-White's lively choreography adds noticeable jolts to the show in places, especially a Denver party scene, a Monte Carlo casino and the night's best number - saloon stomper "Belly Up to the Bar, Boys."

Sets and costumes are almost worth the price of admission. A series of portholes open across the back of the stage, with different cutaways allowing changes from a cabin to a bar to mansion to Monte Carlo. Lush portraits from scenic artist Denny Burkhart rotate through these spaces and in the columns at stage right and stage left.

LeCuyer wears a series of brilliant red dresses that make her sparkle like rubies. The ensemble parades through the show as miners and showgirls, socialites and European royalty - all dressed from tip to toe in an array of colors and corsets, hats, wigs, feathers and frippery.

Audiences won't leave with any real insight into Molly Brown, but they'll leave thoroughly entertained. Lisa LeCuyer fills the character with bold charm and indomitable spirit and Scott Moreau, well, he sings, and the audience just listens.

I might not be "unsinkable," but I float. E-mail me, csilk@naplesnews.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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