When it comes to eliciting interest from you – the ticket buying public – Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical has a few things going for it: These would be the novelty value of it being based on the infamous 1978 porn film, and its two “big-name” stars – celebrity lingerie hawker and model Caprice and studly former Idols contestant Jacques Terre’blanche. Sadly, none of these elements add much value to a weak and forgettable production.
The musical started life as a 2002 off-Broadway show which loosely follows the storyline of the film, without, of course, any real nudity or sex on stage. Small town high school cheerleader Debbie is selected for a place in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad – and she and her buxom friends will do anything they can to raise money for her to get to Dallas. This despite the opposition of the girls’ boyfriends, including Debbie’s own beau – the perpetually horny football captain Dick.
As you’d expect from a porn film (most of which I forwarded through on VHS when I was a teenager), the plot is rather on the skimpy side – something the musical doesn’t improve on.
Considering that the poster for the show only features the sultry Caprice Bourret, and the blurb reads “Caprice in Debbie Does Dallas”, followed by “also starring” the rest of the cast members, you might expect her to actually play Debbie – the lead character. Not quite. Bourret, who doubles as the show’s producer, is simply one of the supporting cheerleaders. The notion that she is an international superstar of humbling proportions is further bolstered by her two page spread in the show’s programme, while the rest of the cast must do with a few lines each.
One can’t avoid the conclusion that this production is little more than an excuse to promote Caprice the brand and her lingerie range, rather than an attempt at quality entertainment. In this regard, Bernard Jay, as head of the Civic Theatre, should seriously consider what his intentions are in putting this on.
Yes, the Tesson is a small, rough-around-the-edges kind of theatre that doesn’t lend itself to big budget shows, but everything else considered, the material should at least be of a high standard in the first place. Debbie Does Dallas does not qualify; it’s not particularly funny, engaging, clever, insightful or challenging. Silly innuendo and Jacques Terre’blanche’s ass (don’t blink and you’ll miss it) do not an edgy production make. Hey, I’m no prude – in fact, if we at least got our money’s worth in the ‘tits and ass’ (to be appropriately crude) department, then I would be more accepting of this show.
The cast is one of the most uneven ones in recent memory: Tanya Van Graan (Debbie) has presence and charm, and is quite gorgeous, but is vocally weak; Terre’blanche has certainly been working out and his one solo is good, but his attempts to hold an American accent are laughable; and thirty-something Caprice Bourret as the gum-snapping teen slut of the piece is actually competent, but hardly memorable – and she thankfully doesn’t get to take on much singing. The only real standout is Fem Belling as Donna who not only masters her role with real sass and sexiness, but also sings the pants off anyone else in the cast. Ultimately the characters are such paper thin creations that there’s not much for anyone to really work with.
There is some trashy camp value to the musical, and Isidingo’s Brandon Auret as Kevin surprises by donning a frock in one of the show’s more unexpected numbers. But this is simply not enough to sustain the whole mess.
Was it entertaining? Yes, in the sense that I wasn’t entirely bored and often laughed when expected (a drink or two will help). But, at a minimum of R200 a seat (front rows at R240), I felt cheated. Debbie Does Dallas at the Joburg Civic is ultimately not dissimilar to a well-put-together high school production. And – at one of our city’s premier theatre venues – that’s actually not acceptable.
Debbie Does Dallas runs at the Tesson Theatre at the Joburg Civic until 18 February.