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Theater Review: "Dangerous Beauty" At The Pasadena Playhouse

Katie Lemon |
March 11, 2011 | 11:29 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The feather masks, provocative dancing and plot are enough to remind an audience of "Moulin Rouge." But "Dangerous Beauty" offers something different — a story that goes beyond romance. It’s a story of class difference, feminism, and cultural history.

The musical is an adaption of the novel “The Honest Courtesan” by Margaret F. Rosenthal, which was also adapted into a film.

The young and poor Veronica Franco (Jenny Powers) falls in love with Marco Venier (James Snyder), the son of a wealthy senator. In Venice, it’s about politics, not love, so of course his father wants him to marry rich in order to preserve the family name. Against his own wishes to stay with Veronica, Marco obeys his father’s orders.

Veronica’s mother, Paola (Laila Robins), soon convinces her to become a courtesan, luring her with the song “Art of Seduction.” Paolo, who used to be a courtesan, emphasizes the glamour and honor of the life, but she warns Veronica that she can never fall in love with the men she sleeps with.

Veronica trades her innocence for gold and soon becomes one of the most famous and glamorous courtesans in Venice. But all this fame, fortune and attention from countless men makes Marco jealous, causing him to try to win his former lover back.

The rest of the story is a combination of war, unjust accusations and lost love. The ending is one of empowerment for Veronica and other courtesans.

Jenny Powers is absolutely stunning in every way. Her beauty is matched with a voice that makes the audience anticipate her next song. Though all the performances are impressive, they are unmatched by Powers, who steals the show. Audiences may recognize leading man James Snyder from his role as Malcolm in the film “She’s The Man.”

The mixed classical and pop music (with intense electric guitar) pairs with some awkward choreography that could have been cut. The elaborate, multi-level Venetian set is impressive but fixed. Having the same set throughout the whole play, simply made different by various lighting, seems a little redundant. But overall, “Dangerous Beauty” is visually appealing beyond belief. The elaborate, colorful costumes and set design bring the theater to life.

Though flashy, colorful and entertaining, "Dangerous Beauty"’s music and lyrics are not timeless enough to leave a lasting impression in the theater world. But at present, the production will provide entertainment and a fun night out. 

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