HOUSTON -- Less than two weeks after its premiere, the creators of Take This Show and Shove It, a campy country-Western about a red-hot momma, her two hot-and-sassy daughters, and her outrageous drag queen son, did exactly that. Their show closed abruptly March 22.
Production spokesperson Kelly Bukolt said the show's co-writer, co-director, and co-choreographer, Phil Oesterman, was unavailable Mar. 23 for comment, since he was traveling back to his New York home. Oesterman was born and raised in Houston. As recently as Mar. 20, Oesterman was confidently announcing that Take This Show and Shove It was booked this coming July at Cinegrill, in Los Angeles, a cabaret theater in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Whether or not Take This Show and Shove It has hung up its britches for good, Oesterman would be the first to admit that what was debuted in Houston, at The Great Caruso, a supper club, needed work. In fact, on Mar. 20, he readily described it as "a work-in-progress."
When asked if Take This Show and Shove It was a revue or a musical, Oesterman replied (Mar. 20) that it was neither. "It's a real odd hybrid."
He wasn't sure yet how to assess its development, either. "I intended to make it very homemade, down-home, even in terms of the craft. It jerks, turns so many corners. I haven't decided if I want to smooth them out or make them more abrupt." Using as its score country-western standards by the likes of Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Clint Black, and even Cole Porter ("Don't Fence Me In"), Take This Show and Shove It wants mostly to be about son Lionel, Oesterman said. Mama ostensibly dominates the action. Both her daughters. Lurleen and Tanqueray, is given significant storylines concerning love problems.
"Beginning in 1969, I stared doing plays with a theme of gay parental acceptance. With Take This Show and Shove It I've come full circle."
Yet Oesterman acknowledged that he had to get Lionel on stage much earlier than as currently conceived, that the show changes course in the middle, becoming essentially Lionel's but not in a way that justifies what's occurred before. He also realized that the characters are "very broad strokes," more caricatures than anything else. "We need to learn a little bit more about them."
He said he was particularly pleased about the use of existing songs. "They are accessible to everyone. They allow couples of all ages to root for the characters."
Tickets cost $25, not including dinner, which was optional. Entrees cost an additional $8 - $13.
Oesterman is the longtime collaborator of Tommy Tune, having teamed with the multiple Tony Award-winner on more than 20 productions, including My One and Only, Grand Hotel, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and The Will Rogers Follies! (Currently they're working on the stage adaptation of Irving Berlin's 1948 movie musical Easter Parade. Oesterman has written the book and is co-directing with Tune, who is starring in the Fred Astaire role, with Sandy Duncan in the Judy Garland part. Easter Parade is aiming for Broadway next season.)
One of Oesterman's co-writers on Take This Show and Shove It was Bob Durkin, also Oesterman's co-director and co-choreographer. Durkin has directed national and international tours of Dreamgirls, The Goodbye Girl, Anything Goes, and Ain't Misbehavin', among others.
The producer of Take This Show and Shove It was Stevie Phillips, who has the Broadway and national touring companies of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in her credits.
And playing Mama was Lenora Nemetz. She first came to attention of the New York critics when she replaced Chita Rivera as Velma Kelly in Chicago. She created the role of Delores Dante, the Waitress, in the Broadway production of Working. She was Nikki in the national tour of the 1986 revival of Sweet Charity.
-- By Peter Szatmary