Recently, our team went out on the town to see Scandalous, the new Broadway Musical with music & lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford. Check out two different perspectives of two of our team members!
by Tara, Concierge
Last night, I was able to see the new musical Scandalous. After reading more about the show, I decided to bring my aunt with me, as she is a huge Kathie Lee fan (I grew up watching Regis and Kathie Lee every morning), and is also very active within her church. I myself was raised catholic but have now eased into Agnosticism though I try to remain spiritual and open to other religions. Although the show tries not to be preachy, and not give the feeling that you’re going to church, I feel to those that are either Atheist, not very religious or perhaps too vested into their religion and are not very open to others, that they might actually end up feeling this way. For my aunt and I however, we found it very inspiring.
The show itself opens with Aimee sitting in a chair atop a high altar in the middle of two staircases, with people below her saying how she both worked miracles, and was a fraud; how she gave people purpose, but only cared for fame. The symbolism of her sitting overlooking the orchestra while these people try to tear her down with words was not lost on me; though sitting in the mezzanine, she was actually on the same level as I was which for me added an interesting depth. The story begins with her childhood on the farm and within seconds Carolee goes from a woman in her 40s to a girl in her teens with a quick taking off of her robe and taking down of her hair. One of my favorite parts of the show was actually the costumes, how they managed to span the decades and locations throughout Aimee’s life. In the first act, she steps in and out of her story, serving as both heroine and narrator throughout her happy and dark times, but she emerges from these and decides she needs to go and preach the word of God. One of the first people she reaches is a former madam Emma Jo, and she is a welcome comic relief to Aimee’s spiritual intensity. She especially shines in the second act with fantastic one liners and a great portrayal of a biblical figure (won’t give that one away!)
Act two begins the period of Hollywood Aimee, and her sermons/plays. Purposefully flashy and a little silly, she tells the stories of Adam and Eve, Moses, and Sampson (with herself as Delilah with a great costume change as she takes of her robe to reveal a gorgeous red and gold gown, then after the sermon, takes that off to reveal her white dress). From here you see her descent into fame and also scandals, with no help from the pastor that believes a woman should do her service to God with no fanfare. She goes from the eloping which instantly is a mistake to the controversial kidnapping and trial for faking said kidnapping, drug use, and finally the long path to remembering her true purpose.
My aunt and I absolutely loved this show. The music had several different themes to it, from jazzy songs to reflect the 20’s-30’s to a fun bawdy Irish drinking song and a number from Emma Jo’s girls, but Aimee’s powerful ballads were very well done by Carolee Carmello. I felt that though Aimee was Pentecostal that the messages were universal, that everyone has a purpose, and to not be afraid to listen to the voice inside you (whether that voice is God’s or your own). My aunt enjoyed Aimee reaching out to the people across the country, particularly to Emma Jo. She also liked the idea of Aimee’s to try and make the bible more appealing to people, as Aimee says “To give the people what they want, and then slip in the gospel and give them what they need.” My aunt says a group she is a part of tries to do that now, not with plays, but other ways to make the word of God more approachable and applicable to everyday life, especially to the youth in the community.
After the show, we decided to wait by the stage door and get some autographs. Though it was raining, we were very fortunate to meet a few members of the cast, including Kathie Lee Gifford and Carolee Carmello. They could not have been nicer and were very supportive of the people coming to see the show, and said that they were still working on and changing things. My aunt had told her that we would be back, and as I have a friend who still wants to see the show, and now more so since he’s talked to me, we will definitely be going back.
by Alex, Concierge
Scandalous, a new musical chronicling the life of Aimee Semple McPherson (America’s infamous female preacher and feminist pioneer) is reminiscent of whimsical theatrical coming-of-age stories like The Wizard of Oz and Gypsy. It’s the tale of a young woman torn between her love of God– at first, forcefully nutured by her mother, and then embraced as an adult –and her love of the stage. Through a series of fateful turns, Semple is “made whole” by uniting her two loves, jointly serving her maker and her soul. In her midlife, she attains unprecidented acclaim as a religious figure and a trendsetting woman, far from her days as a Chicago sidewalk soapbox preacher. Largely forgotten by American society, Semple McPherson is skillfully brought back to life by bookwriter KathieLee Giford, who, in interviews, has compared Semple’s hype to the likes of Lady Gaga and Madonna.
In the vein of it’s contemporary, Chaplin (also on Broadway now), Scandalous recounts the entire life journey of our heroine, from humble country beginnings on a farm much like Dorthy’s Kansan home, to a wildly successful career in Hollywood, in the new, self-built Foursquare Church, portrayed by a luminescent white grand staircase and pulpit straight out of an Astaire-Rodgers flick. As a matter of fact, Semple’s Californian church pagents featured set design by none other than “The Little Tramp,” Chaplin, himself. In the show, Semple and a young Chaplin meet at a “Who’s Who” of Hollywood dinner party, and says that she may be “the best actress [he’s] ever seen.”
Scandoulous features a tour de force performance by Carolee Carmello, who’s certainly no newbie to the Broadway caliber stage, but is newly presented with the role of a lifetime. Her lover(s), played by baritone Edward Watts (another name bound to be in lights above the marquee in the near future), is also a standout performance. As previously mentioned, the sets are sights to be beheld. Our production team does a nice job in presenting a wide variety of scenes to take in, from the countryside, to an Irish port, to the interior of Semple’s radio studio.
In the eleven o’clock hour, Semple gets caught up in… a scandal!.. which, in the modern day, would be parallel to that of Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, or, more recently, Lance Armstrong. Semple is torn between her flawed humanity and her aimingly flawless leadership as a woman of God. However, the playwright and lyricist skillfully point no figers, and instead, lets the audience draw their own conclusions when presented with the historical facts.
In summation, Scandalous is appropriate for all ages (though adults may have more appreciation), the religious-spiritual minded, both bible bearers and non, historians and scholars, and, of course, the intellectually curious. It’s a great middleground between straight theatre and musical comedy with some juicy dramatic moments for Ms. Carmello. “Raise up” and check it out for yourself!