Cheryl Stern in Being Audrey
(© Sarah Ackerman)
Cheryl Stern in Being Audrey
(© Sarah Ackerman)
In the disappointing if intriguing new musical, Being Audrey, now being presented by the Transport Group at the Connelly Theatre, Claire' s husband Larry suddenly collapses with an aneurism and lies near death in a hospital's intensive care unit, where doctors want her to sign a "Do Not Resuscitate" form, However, her denial is so deep that this lifelong movie fanatic seeks to escape her fearful circumstances by fleeing to Rome. Or rather to the film Roman Holiday, in which Audrey Hepburn began her career co-starring with Gregory Peck. And thus begins a musical journey in which Claire (Cheryl Stern) finds herself in one after another of Hepburn's most famous films as she works her way toward the one that has multiple meanings for her: Breakfast at Tiffany's.

This is precious material that requires a light, bright touch. While the book by James Hindman, music and lyrics by Ellen Weiss, the compelling, fluid direction by Jack Cummings III, and the excellent choreography and musical staging by Scott Rink all do their part to suggest the possibilities in this piece, the entire enterprise is weighed down by a miscast Stern (who is credited with additional book and lyrics).

The big problem is not that Stern doesn't look like Audrey Hepburn or possess her gamine-like charm, since the musical doesn't require its female star to evoke Hepburn in any way. It does, however, require an actress who can win our empathy. Stern has musical theater chops and a broad vaudevillian appeal, but this role requires delicacy and sensitivity, even when it's being played for laughs --which is often the case.

Fortunately, the rest of the cast is strong and effective. Brian Sutherland, who plays both her dying husband and all the male stars Hepburn loved in the movies, does an excellent job walking the line between reality and fantasy. Andrea Bianchi brings a vivid sense of humor to her many portrayals, most notably as the rich mother of William Holden and Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina. Perhaps the best voices in the ensemble belong to Valerie Fagan and Mark Ledbetter, both of whom get their chance to show their wares.

In the end, one leaves the theater thinking it would be fascinating to see the same show with a different female lead -- if only to see just how much of a difference that might make.