Valley of the what?

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By Jasmine Maharisi – News Editor

If you’ve seen the 1967 film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s “Valley of the Dolls,” brace yourself for an even more rouge (and hilarious) parody at the SNAP!/Shelterbelt Theatre.

The stage production, of the same name as the book and movie, follows the movie script almost entirely, with one obvious exception: cross-dressing. All of the female characters, including the voluptuous, adult-film star Jennifer North (who was played by Sharon Tate in the classic, 1967 version), are played by men. The male characters, including each of the three characters’ lovers, are played by women. This detail is what sets the play apart from all others, with laugh out loud moments as husky male actors try on coy female roles straight out of the 1960s.

M. Michelle Phillips directs a crew of talent from the Running with Scissors Theatre Group, originally out of  New Orleans. Audience members will also see local faces, such as Eschelle Childs from the 2009 production of “The Color Purple” at the Orpheum and Chelsea Long. Childs starred in Shelterbelt’s 2008 production “From Shelterbelt with Love.” Both Childs and Long take on male roles, with Childs as Anne’s beau Lyon and Long as the sanitarium-bound Tony.

Perhaps the most glowing talent of all is Adam Nathan, whose portrayal of innocent and refined New England rich girl Anne Wells garnered several hearty chuckles. One of the audience’s favorite scenes was when Anne meets Lyon – her soon to be boyfriend – and drops her purse out of nervousness. Fans of the book will remember the scene well, as will those who viewed the movie. In the movie, Lyon helps Anne pick up her belongings but they look over a tube of lipstick, which Lyon must later return to her. The stage parody substitutes a dildo for lipstick and the romance begins in a completely different manner than the proper courtship featured in the book.

Rhonda Hall, known as “The Prop Goddess” in the Omaha theatre community, is responsible for helping Phillips acquire a set that is, like the actors’ costumes, tacky and excessive. For example, a worn, white-and-green, crocheted afghan, for example, partly covers a faded, blue, velvet, Victorian settee. Brown pill bottles are everywhere. Wigs become stars in their own rights as they are piled high, twirled around hairy masculine fingers, yanked off and flushed down the toilet.

The show is absolutely worth every penny of the $20 ticket price. Additionally, proceeds from ticket sales go toward promoting the SNAP! mission of promoting awareness and acceptance of HIV and AIDS. To really get the most out of the show, rent the 1967 movie first. You’ll find yourself laughing long after curtain call.

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