Theater Review: 'Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson' -- 1 star

Carolee Carmello in "Scandalous: The Life and Trials

Carolee Carmello in "Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson" (Credit: Carolee Carmello in "Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson" )

Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson
1 star

The Tony Award for fearless determination - if such a thing actually existed, ought to go to Kathie Lee Gifford.

She has been developing and promoting her musical "Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson" - for which she wrote the lyrics, book and even some of the music - for more than a decade.

Despite mixed-to-negative reviews during several out-of-town engagements, and having endured multiple directors, this sappy tribute to McPherson, an early 20th century evangelist, has finally landed on Broadway.

"Scandalous" is like a combination of "Leap of Faith," another musical about an evangelist, which flopped last spring, and "Chaplin," also a bland bio musical (Appropriately, Charlie Chaplin makes a cameo in "Scandalous").

The show begins with McPherson addressing the audience as if they are attending one of her revival meetings. She proceeds to ramble on about her life, from childhood through her notorious trial for perjury.

Act Two, which is chaotic in nature, has McPherson running amok in Hollywood and hobnobbing with celebs. A few cute parodies of biblical stories are randomly also thrown in.

The score - the work of no less than three composers - mainly consists of generic samplings from various genres: Irish jig, beer hall anthem, tambourine-shaking prayer and so on.

Carolee Carmello, who has spent the past few years alternating between the tryouts of "Scandalous" and stints in "Mamma Mia!," throws all of her dramatic and vocal intensity into the role, but it is an off-putting, aggressive performance.

Tony winner George Hearn plays two negligible roles. Such is what happens when you get too old to play Sweeney Todd again.

Roz Ryan, who regularly steps into the cast of "Chicago," adds a touch of zest as a former whorehouse madam turned McPherson follower.


If you go: "Scandalous" plays an open run at the Neil Simon Theatre. 250 W. 52nd St., 212-398-8383, ticketmaster.com.

Tags: ENTERTAINMENT , THEATER REVIEW , MATT WINDMAN

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