James Snyder and Jenny Powers in Dangerous Beauty
(© Jim Cox/The Pasadena Playhouse)
James Snyder and Jenny Powers in Dangerous Beauty
(© Jim Cox/The Pasadena Playhouse)
For a show called Dangerous Beauty, the new musical premiering at the Pasadena Playhouse proves to be surprisingly safe and uninspired, especially considering the tantalizing subject matter. While the work is a decidedly professional effort, it's a bit too dull to fully capture the audience's attention.

The musical follows the story of Veronica Franco (Jenny Powers), a Venetian girl who chooses the life as a courtesan in order to be with Marco, the man she loves (James Snyder). She becomes the most alluring one in the city, bringing senators and bishops to her bed, as Marco marries another woman. War, pestilence and the Spanish Inquisition complicate their already rocky world.

Librettist Jeannine Dominy -- who also wrote the script to the film on which the show is based -- mixes modern and middle age verse. At times, the libretto is lush and romantic. Moreover, Dominy does create an endearing and enduring heroine, and Jenny Powers, who proves to be a powerful singer and talented actress, has a seductive and yet innocent aura as Veronica.

The score by Michele Brourman and Amanda McBroom mixes classic and rock components, but ends up filled with too many interchangeable songs. Most successful is a fugue between Veronica and the married women whose husbands have shared her bed, called "Hymn To The Madonna."

Director Sheryl Kaller captures little of the wonder of mid-millennium Venice, and much of her staging is perfunctory. Similarly the choreography by Benoit-Swan Pouffer is not as fresh as it could be. On the plus side, the sets by Tom Buderwitz show both an exotic town square and an empty shell in the final moments. The costumes by Soyon An are elegant and ornate, with striking colors and lines. The lighting design by Russell H Champa realistically mimics the constant flow of Venice's canals.

Among the star-filled supporting cast, which includes Megan McGinnis, Laila Robins, and Bryce Ryness, Tony Award winner Michael Rupert stands out, as he brings credence to the role of Veronica's patron, Domenico.