There have always been determined women who’ve succeeded in a male-dominated world.
“It’s not man’s world, it’s God’s,” Aimee Semple McPherson (Carolee Carmello) tells Louella Parsons (Elizabeth Ward Land) in “Scandalous,” the new musical enjoying an open run at the Neil Simon Theatre.
|Kenneth Ormiston (Andrew Samonsky) and Aimee Semple McPherson (Carolee Carmello) in a photo by Jeremy Daniel.|
The woman at the center of Kathie Lee Gifford’s (book, lyrics) “Scandalous” was a controversial celebrity evangelist. In 1927, Aimee Semple McPherson became embroiled in a morals trial.
Was she targetted because her large house of worship dominated Los Angeles and competed with the established church of Brother Bob (George Hearn)? Was it that she broadcasted sermons coast to coast that drew fire? Was she signalled out because she was a driven woman? Did she shock convention? The answer in “Scandalous” is all of the above.
|Aimee Semple McPherson (Carolee Carmello) and Borther Bob (George Hearn) in a photo by Jeremy Daniel.|
A Holy Roller’s biography in music (by David Pomeranz and David Friedman and additional music and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford) and song should have some exuberant singing. The music in “Scandalous” is muted as if intentionally tamping down the “joyful noises” of a Pentecostal service. Unexpectedly, the fiercest and most rousing number in “Scandalous” is one in which Aimee challenges God, “How Could You?”
|The company with Carolee Carmello. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.|
“Scandalous” is a lavish, if somewhat uninspired, musical play. The costumes by Gregory A. Paplyk are simply gorgeous. The Ensemble is hard working and well directed (David Armstorng directs, choreography by Lorin Latarro.) Among the large cast, Edward Watts (in a dual role as Robert Semple and David Hutton, two of Aimee’s husbands, George Hearn (also in two roles as Aimee’s father and Brother Bob), and Roz Ryan as a madam, Emma Jo Schaeffer, who becomes Aimee’s assistant in the church, all stand out..
Aimee Semple McPherson welcomed the attention of the press and the public. She sought it out. Her hubris brought on her downfall. Or, as it happens, more like a stumble. The scandal in “Scandalous” did not shut her or her Angelus Temple down.
For more information about “Scandalous,” please visit http://scandalousonbroadway.com/