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Paulanne Simmons

"Mimi le Duck" Needs Less Splashing Around

Mimi le Duck

"Mimi le Duck"
Directed by Thomas Caruso
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street between 8th and 9th avenues
Opened Nov. 6, 2006
Mon., Wed. thru Fri. 8 p.m. Sat. 2 & 8 p.m. Sun 3 & 7 p.m.
$45 - $70 (212239-6200 or www.telecharge.com
Open run
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Nov. 4, 2006

"Mimi le Duck" has exuberant and beautiful staging, and a cast that includes the Broadway veteran Eartha Kitt, as well as newer arrivals like Robert DuSold ("Les Miserables," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Jekyll and Hyde") and Ken Jennings ("Sweeney Todd," "Urinetown"), but it suffers from Diana Hansen-Young's fuzzy script and an overload of songs (Hansen-Young wrote the lyrics; Brian Feinstein composed the music), not many of which make much of an impression.

The show is a transatlantic fantasy that begins in Ketchum, Idaho, where the heroine, a duck-painting housewife named Miriam (Annie Golden), tires of her boring small-town life with her husband, Peter (Marcus Neville), who only wears brown socks (garments, which for some reason, she finds intolerable). Under the tutelage of the ghost of Ernest Hemmingway (Allen Fitzpatrick), Miriam sets off for Gay Paree, where she becomes the titular Mimi. But like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," she eventually learns "There's no place like home."

Landing in Paris with Ernest, Mimi falls into the clutches of a gypsy pickpocket (Ken Jennings). She is befriended by Claude (DuSold), an oyster vendor who is obsessed with Agatha Christie's Miss Marple; an earthy sculptress named Clay (Candy Buckley); Ziggy (Tom Aldredge), the owner of the cabaret "Quack ‘n' Chirp; and Madame Vallet (Kitt), formerly the singing sensation "Oiseau Rouge."

"Mimi le Duck" has a frenetic pace that propels the show over less than stellar moments. Unfortunately, the pace also doesn't allow director Thomas Caruso to make use of his major assets: DuSold, who brings cross-dressing to new fashion heights, and Kitt, always the seductress, who sings the show's two most memorable songs, "Everything Changes" and "All Things New."

There are just too many ideas floating around in "Mimi le Duck." Some of them are worth developing (Ziggy's relationship to Madame Vallet, Hemmingway's former life in Paris); and some appear superfluous (Clay and the Gypsy).

This is a musical that often seems like a show produced by wealthy college students whose professor is on vacation. They have more than enough money for a spectacular set (set designer John Arnone gives the flavor of Paris with the hint of the Eiffel Tower and the cabarets of Montmartre) and costumes (Ann Hould-Ward has pulled out all the stops for Kitt's dresses and Miriam's transformation into Mimi le Duck). One only wishes the professor had come back before opening night.

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