Nineteen eighties prime-time television soap-opera legends Joan Collins and Linda Evans square off again in the current national tour of Legends, with hilarious results. The latest installment of the critically acclaimed Broadway Series South series emphasizes the appearance, live onstage, of the “Dynasty” stars, resuming their old, fiercely adversarial personae in director John Bowab’s revamped version of an R-rated 1986 comedy by James Kirkwood, Jr. (A Chorus Line and P.S. Your Cat Is Dead!). Moreover, although it may not be a classic backstage comedy — Legends has more than a modicum of sex, barnyard language, and brief (male) nudity to spice up the proceedings — this show is more than just a star package. Collins and Evans have generously given their strong supporting cast carte blanche to steal every scene in which they appear.
Once again dressed to thrill by “Dynasty” costume designer Nolan Miller, Joan Collins and Linda Evans keep the verbal brickbats flying — much to the audience’s delight — as Sylvia Glenn and Leatrice Monsee, two aging and virtually penniless former sirens of the silver screen whom conniving Off-Broadway producer Joe Farrell (Martin Klemmer) sees as a marquee matchup for a first play by an unknown playwright. Farrell hopes that the prospect of pairing Glenn and Monsee, whose legendary feud once provided some of Hollywood’s juiciest gossip, will prove catnip for investors and the news media.
Nobody plays a bad girl better than Joan Collins, and nobody plays a good girl better Linda Evans. Their incendiary exchanges in Legends rekindle fond memories of epic showdowns between Alexis and Krystle — only this time there is no titanic wrestling match in a fountain.
Collins plays the ever-cynical, always on-the-make Sylvia Glenn with a smirk and sneer; and Evans provides the perfect foil as Pollyannaish Leatrice Monsee. Unbeknownst to each other (but not to producer Joe Farrell), both women have fallen on hard times and are desperately in need of a paycheck — not to mention a comeback vehicle for their rapidly dissipating careers. So, when Farrell tells them that movie star Paul Newman — old blue eyes himself — is interested in playing the male lead in his new play, they agree to meet with him to discuss their possible participation. But when Sylvia and Leatrice arrive early for their get-acquainted meeting, it is quickly clear that neither woman has forgotten nor forgiven all the mean tricks that they played on each other, all those years ago.
Martin Klemmer is a scream as over-caffeinated wheeler-dealer Joe Farrell. The series of desperate fast-talking telephone calls that Farrell makes to pull his production together provide some of the show’s funniest moments, and the scene in which he unknowingly consumes a fistful of brownies laced with hashish is a showstopper.
Will Holman keeps the audience in stitches with his outrageous antics as black Chippendales dancer Boom-Boom Johnson. Indeed, his impressive leap to the top of a baby-grand piano during his comic striptease is just one of the surprises that occurs during his R-rated segment of the show.
Ethan Matthews is amusing as the wily Cop who shows up when Sylvia and Leatrice take their increasingly physical shouting match out on the balcony of the posh 18th-floor Sutton Place apartment where they are to meet Joe Farrell. But it is African-American actress Tonye Patano who steals scene after scene, strutting and fretting as Aretha, an irrepressible maid whom Sylvia Glenn enlists in her futile scheme to impress Leatrice Monsee and fool Joe Farrell by borrowing a friend’s apartment and pretending it’s her own. Patano brings a lot of snap, crackle, and pop to her smart-alecky role as Aretha, who may be a servant in uniform but is nobody’s fool. Aretha more than holds her own when Boom-Boom shows up unexpectedly to rock her world and when relations between Leatrice and Sylvia rapidly degenerate as the two old rivals go nuclear with each other.
The brisk comic staging of director/adapter John Bowab combines with the theatrical magic of set designer Jesse Poleshuck, lighting designer Phil Monat, costume designer Nolan Miller, and associate costume designer Robin L. McGee to make Legends a night to remember. Producers Ben Sprecher, William P. Miller, Percy Gibson, Wendy Federman, Spring Sirkin, Max Cooper, David Mirvish, and Ed Mirvish may never open this catfight comedy on the Great White Way; but they have royally entertained audiences across America who came out to see Linda Evans and Joan Collins reprise their good girl vs. bad girl battle royale. Moreover, it is the crisp comic characterizations of the entire cast that Broadway Series South patrons will most remember, because they inspired a rowdy standing ovation after Tuesday’s opening-night performance.
Broadway Series South presents Legends, Starring Joan Collins and Linda Evans, Thursday-Friday, May 3-4, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 5, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 6, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $23-$63. Progress Energy Box Office: 919/831-6060. Group Rates (for groups of 20 or more): 919/857-4565, firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: Arts Access, Inc of Raleigh, NC (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 8 p.m. May 5th performance. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com The Show: http://www.legendsthecomedy.com/ [inactive 12/07]. Joan Collins: http://www.joancollins.net/ (official web site), http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?id=35898 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001058/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://joancollinsshrine.8m.com/ (Joan Collins Shrine) [inactive]. Linda Evans: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002067/ (Internet Movie Database). "Dynasty" (Internet Movie Database): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081856/.