Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review of Underscore Theatre Company's Tonya and Nancy: A Rock Opera

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera. The book and lyrics were by Elizabeth Searle and the music was by Michael Teoli. It was directed and choreographed by Jon Martinez and the music director was Aaron Benham. It was about Tonya Harding (Amanda Horvath) and Nancy Kerrigan (Courtney Mack) who were two skaters in the 1994 Olympics. And Tonya was accused of setting up a plan with her husband Jeff Gillooly (Justin Adair) to break Nancy's legs. I think this case is very interesting and I think it is cool they put it into song form. There is no real hero. Nancy is the victim and Tonya is the villain, but she is a villain that you understand her emotions. They are kind of like Betty and Veronica in Archie comics. Betty never does anything to hurt Veronica, but you can understand why Veronica gets angry at Betty: because she is taking something that she wants (Archie) that isn't legitimately one or the other's. The gold medal is Archie. I thought this was a fun show. Even though I wasn't born at the time of the scandal, I still found it interesting.

I thought that the moms of Tonya and Nancy, both played by Veronica Garza, were my favorite characters. I got that they both wanted success for their daughters, but they went about it in different ways. Tonya's mom wanted success for Tonya because it would make them both money and make her seem like an amazing mom, which she was not. She talks to Tonya like she is a dog and like she doesn't actually deserve anything. But that makes Tonya want to succeed even more so she can earn her mother's love. Tonya's mom is such an over-the-top bad mother, like she went to bars while Tonya was iceskating and says horrible things to her, but they are so insane and such awful insults, that it is funny. Nancy's mom is very supportive of her daughter no matter what medal she gets, but Nancy still wants to get her mother's approval for everything. She is worried that everyone will think that she is spoiled just because her mother loves her, unlike Tonya's mother seems to. The funniest song and maybe most heartbreaking was a song sung by both of the moms, miraculously, about what they want for their daughters. She would have these costume changes while she was singing and she had completely different voices for each character. It was so fun to see her transform in a second. In another scene Tonya and Nancy were trapped in a dressing room together and their moms were trying to get them to come out, and I thought it was super cool how the moms would cut each other off because they were played by the same person and it was such perfect comedic timing.

"When You Wake Up Sleeping In Your Car In Estacada" was basically like Jeff Gillooly's justification, but not really because what he did was not justifiable. It was funny because you know he is trying to sing this really sappy song and trying to cover up what he did and trying to act all sad like he did nothing wrong. But the whole audience is laughing because he is a sad sack. I thought the melody was actually quite nice, so it was still very catchy. It contrasted very well because Jeff Gillooly doesn't seem like a very sappy guy. I also loved the song where you first meet the bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt (Vasily Deris). It was not the most kid-friendly of songs, but I thought it was hilarious. He was basically seducing the audience with innuendos.

The contrast between Nancy and Tonya is a component of how they introduce the characters. Nancy was a good girl and Tonya was a butt-kicker. Nancy came from a nice home in Massachusetts, and Tonya came from a trailer park in Oregon. They were polar opposites. But you find out that they have a lot more in common than you were led to think. They both really want the gold medal but they don't always get what they want. They want their parents to love them and be proud of them. (And their mothers look very similar!) They both have a bunch of paparazzi following their every move, which is nice at first and they feel very famous, but then they start to hate them and become annoyed and scared of them. When they actually see each other and have a conversation they actually like each other because they have both suffered and both lost, but they both want to do what they love, which is skating. The narrator (Caleb Baze) asks us at the end, "Whose story was it?" and they have this little song-ument about whose story it was and they don't have an answer. That is for you to decide. I think it was Tonya's story because even though she was basically the villain, you got to see deeper into her life, her family, and her marriage. I like Nancy as a person better, but Tonya was definitely the main character.

People who would like this show are people who like skate moms, scandals, and sleeping in your car in Estacada. I thought that this was a fun show. It was enjoyable and it made me interested in this entire scandal.

Photos: Evan Hanover

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