Doug Marino Mon, May 30, 2011 Theatre Review: 'The Sphinx Winx'

Peter James Zielinski

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When I first googled this show to see what the heck it was all about, I came across a few articles that listed the cast and creatives - nothing unusual. Then I noticed the name Philip Capice. I thought to myself, isn't that odd? That's the name of the guy who's name used to get splashed on the screen as Executive Producer at the end of every Dallas episode - you know - when something juicy was going to happen in the last 5 minutes and they left you hanging until next week. Well... turns out it's the same guy! Who'd a thunk?

After a bit more digging - it turns out he passed away in late 2009 but that he had actually co-written the book and lyrics and directed the original show while a senior at Dickenson College in 1952! Amazing! He, in fact, was the one who had the idea to shoot JR in the infamous season finale. Leave it to a campy musical theatre guy to come up with the best idea on television in March of 1980! And now... back to our show...

The show is pure musical theatre camp. And I mean that in thebest way possible. It draws on the entire genre to both make fun of itself and to make light of a version of a story that we all know - that of Cleopatra, Caesar, and Mark Antony. In many ways, similar to the Drowsy Chaperone of today penned by Bob Martin. It is not, of course, intended to be a history lesson (gosh, maybe we'd be in a better place if it were!). It's a celebration of burlesque, variety show, farce, comedy, and musical theatre all rolled up in one big ball of fun! Don't go expecting to be impressed by the techniques of the actors, depth of the story, or purpose of the book - just go and enjoy exactly what the director intended - you having a good laugh at some entertaining actors telling a classic story with a little (ok, a lot of) embellishment having what appears to be a whole lot fun in the process.

Erika Amato takes the helm as the divine, demanding, and ever-dramatic Cleopatra. Bruce Sabath hams it up as the tax revenue bungling emperor, Caesar... and a German doctor (German... in ancient Egypt - funny, no?). Rebecca Riker assumes the role of a beautiful slave that Mark Antony falls for (over Cleopatra, mind you) - but her best moments were as Enobarbus, Caesar's Sarah Palin-looking and speaking lawyer. (You Betcha!) Bret Shuford takes a dual role as an English message courier and the handsome (um, very handsome) Mark Antony. And I must say that Mark Antony must have had the sexiest legs on the planet if the dashing Bret is any indication... but I digress. Ryan Williams opens, runs, and closes the show with some of the most hysterical character acting I have seen on stage in a long time. Summoning his inner Paul Lynn, he aptly played Cleopatra's over-the-top Soothsayer.

Kudos to the director, Matthew Hamel who seems to have pulled off a delightful, updated rendition of an old book and to the actors who made it all look so easy! Now, if only we got to see more of those Bret Shuford, um... i mean Mark Antony... legs...

The Sphinx Winx is currently running thru July 24th at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row located at 410 West 42nd Street just off Ninth Avenue.