Spotlight: Kiss of the Spider Woman

Minneapolis Musical Theatre finds the beauty in Terrence McNally's wandering adaptation

If you're going to cook up a musical, a South American prison might not be the first place you'd think to set it. However, Kiss of the Spider Woman, which debuted on Broadway in 1993, took home armloads of Tony awards and registered in New York as a success. Minneapolis Musical Theatre lends it a capable small-theater take, finding a sort of bittersweet beauty amid a lot of meandering. The setup is familiar to those who saw the 1985 film starring William Hurt and Raul Julia (or read the 1976 novel by Manuel Puig): Gay window dresser Molina (Edward Williams Jr.) is locked up in a cell with macho Marxist revolutionary Valentin (Tim Kuehl). Valentin at first resists Molina's charms, chief among which is his fixation on movie star Aurora (Stacey Lindell). Williams is relatively low-key as the usually flaming Molina, though he comes alive when the glammed-out Lindell takes the stage in fantasy sequences. The first act is a butt-numbing 90 minutes, with Terrence McNally's book foundering and composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb charting their own aimless course. That said, there are standout numbers such as "Dear One" and the sparkling ode to escapism "Where You Are." Here, Lindell dons a gleaming white suit and top hat, and hoofs mightily with the male prisoner chorus. And the second act delivers the marvelous "Good Times," in which Lindell adopts a ridiculous but funny Russian accent. Lindell, meanwhile, goes about her transformation into the black-clad Spider Woman, who represents the imminent death everyone knows is about to take place. Director Steven J. Meerdink gets an easygoing intimacy out of Williams and Kuehl, though their eventual romance is fairly unbelievable. And since Broadway musicals tend not to climax with crushing tragedy, Molina's demise yields to the daft "Only in the Movies," a big number that tries to put a sweet gloss on all the awfulness. Sometimes awful circumstances are just that.

 
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