New York Theater Review: MY TAWNY VALENTINE (The Laurie Beechman Theater in New York)

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by Thomas Antoinne on March 23, 2012

in Theater-New York

A TAWNY STAR IS BORN

Tawny Heatherton is the fictional drag persona created by David Drake, the star of My Tawny Valentine at The Laurie Beecham Theatre. As the niece of Joey Heatherton, Tawny is best known to the world as a one-hit wonder for her single, “Run, Crazy Man,” a song that was huge in Europe, but never made it across the pond. David Drake as Tawny Heatherton is a fascinating, funny creature in search of a better evening more suited to her extraordinary talents.

Mr. Drake is best known for his 1994 Obie Award-winning solo show, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me. It seems fitting that the year after Kramer’s The Normal Heart was revived on Broadway, Drake’s solo work should also make a re-appearance on a New York stage. With Tawny Heatherton, Drake introduces New Yorkers to a terrific, new addition to his stellar repertoire of work.

With his stunningly lean physique and gams that won’t quit, Drake dons a sassy wig that is a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Carol Channing, traipsing across the stage with sex-kitten moves and expressions worthy of Tawny’s favorite Serta-perfect aunt. He belts out standards with full commitment, sometimes substituting self-assurance and star wattage for the correct notes and accurate pitch. Yet, there is no doubt we are in the presence of a rare creature. Tawny never ceases to amuse and entertain.

For this special character, Drake has created My Tawny Valentine, one part drag show, one part performance art. The evening is comprised of her singing re-interpreted standards, telling fictional anecdotes, and playing music videos skillfully created by Ned Stresen Reuter. Tawny re-lives her promotional days as a Hee-Haw Honey, her time as a back-up dancer with a Bob Hope USO tour, and, of course, her brief run-in with fame via her hit single, “Run, Crazy Man,” from her album, “The Good, the Bad, and the Tawny.”

All of the set pieces in My Tawny Valentine are cleverly conceived, including an inspired rendition of the eponymous song, performed almost entirely in Esperanza. When Tawny is not in performance mode, she banters amusingly with the audience and has lovely repartee with Lance Cruce, who accompanies her on piano and effortlessly takes on Musical Director duties.

My one criticism of the piece is that the evening doesn’t have quite enough dramatic shape to transcend the limited delight of watching Drake perform his fabulous new character. Team Tawny – Drake, Cruse and Director Robert La Fosse – have wrapped the evening in a very simple theme: love. Each section of Valentine explores a different person Tawny has loved in her fabled life. While Tawny sells the show with charm to spare, by the end of the evening, we’re left somewhat slighted as we’ve haven’t been taken on a journey of true dramatic consequence.

Team Tawny would be wise to explore other contexts where Tawny can shine. It would be a shame for this brief run in mid-town Manhattan to be the last we see of the fabulous new star in the firmament known as Tawny Heatherton.

photos by Steven Weiner and Broadway.com

My Tawny Valentine
The Laurie Beechman Theater in New York
closed on March 2, 2012
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