(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Andrew Friedenthal.)
If the title Debbie Does Dallas is familiar to you, it’s probably not as an Off-Broadway musical comedy.
However, in 2002, that’s exactly what this classic "adult" film became, in an adaptation of Maria Minestra’s screenplay into a musical with a book by Susan L. Schwartz and music and lyrics by Andrew Sherman (with Jonathan Callicutt and Tom Kitt).
Now, Doctuh Mistuh productions has brought Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical to Austin in a hilarious production that provides an uproarious good time, playing through Jan. 8 at the Salvage Vanguard Theater.
In her seminal academic text on adult films, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the Frenzy of the Visible, scholar Linda Williams noted that many such films function structurally the same as musicals, with dialogue-driven scenes of plot development facing frequent interruptions, either for sex scenes or songs. Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical literalizes this similarity, turning what was already an intentionally comedic pornographic film into a satirical statement on our contemporary society’s hyper-sexualization of teenage girls.
More importantly, DDD: The Musical (surely an intentional set of initials) makes this point in a funny, smutty, over-the-top manner that brings out huge laughs. Director Michael McKelvey, with choreographer Madison Piner, has created a fast-paced, physical production that utilizes the charm and vitality of its cast to keep the show’s energy at a frantic pace throughout, leading to a satisfying conclusion.
DDD’s story is, for obvious reasons, rather simple. Small-town cheerleader Debbie Benton is thrust into the spotlight amongst her friends when she is accepted as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. However, because she is expected to pay for her own housing and travel expenses, Debbie needs to earn money, fast, and her fellow cheerleaders pitch in to help in exactly the way you would expect cheerleaders in a porn film to make money.
Although the plot is, expectedly, very lowbrow, the meta-commentary throughout – capably handled by a potent group of performers – is witty and wise. Monique Huff, as Debbie, carries the show through a duel expression of naivety and self-possession that manages to strip her character naked in even the most absurd of circumstances. Her rival/frenemy, Lisa, played by Lexi De Anda, perfectly fulfills the "mean girl" stereotype, serving as a believable antagonist in a story that is based more on consummation than conflict.
The entire cast is just as strong, proving to be hilarious, talented, and – most importantly – willing to give one hundred percent commitment to such an outlandish concept, the only thing that allows the audience to buy into this strange, casual encounter. Though the music and songs themselves are at times somewhat flaccid, building to a climax that never quite comes, this is through no fault of the cast, or of this production.
Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical is a funny, sexy, enjoyable experience, worth seeking out to fulfill your burning desire for a night of hard-core, body-shaking, explosive laughter.
Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical continues through Jan. 8. http://www.doctuhmistuh.org