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Pygmalion

I Married Wyatt Earp

This new musical about women in the old West is extremely uneven.

By New York City
Mishaela Faucher and Karla Mosley
in I Married Wyatt Earp
(© Gerry Goodstein)
Mishaela Faucher and Karla Mosley
in I Married Wyatt Earp
(© Gerry Goodstein)
The long-overlooked lives of the women who loved the men who fought in the infamous Shootout at the O.K. Corral are awkwardly and unconvincingly unearthed in the new musical I Married Wyatt Earp, now at 59E59 Theaters as part of the Americas Off-Broadway festival.

The show, with a book by Thomas Edward West and Sheilah Rae and songs by composer Michele Brourman and lyricist Rae, centers on Josephine "Josie" Sarah Marcus (an occasionally effective and affecting Mishaela Faucher), a young woman who uproots herself from her rarified home life in San Francisco to trail after the man she loves (the unseen Johnny Behan) by joining a traveling theater troupe, led by Pauline Rackham (Tina Stafford), and featuring two others, Maude (Cara Massey) and Cora (Karla Mosley).

Once Josie and the company have arrived in Tombstone, though, she finds herself loving another (the equally unseen titular Earp), although this affair comes at a cost to another woman: Earp's common-law first with Mattie (Anastasia Barzee) falls deeper into a preexisting laudanum addiction.

These stories are enacted as flashbacks as an older incarnation of Josie (Carolyn Mignini) shares an alcohol fueled evening of recriminations and bonding with Allie (Heather Mac Rae), Virgil Earp's widow, as they recall the events of their youth. The two women have come together because they are feuding over the story that John Ford will use in his classic movie about the legendary gunfight.

This flashback framing is an unfortunate misstep. Although it allows for exposition and backstory to be related in a handy manner, it also means that often audiences are merely hearing about events in the most uninteresting and awkward ways as the two women will announce "I remember" to simply shoehorn in pieces of their shared history, such as the anti-Semitism which the Jewish Josie encountered among the other Earp women.

The book is equally problematic in that it attempts to bring too many details about other women's stories into the action, including the younger version of Allie (Stephanie Palumbo), James Earp's mate Bess (Carol Linnea Johnson), Doc Holliday's mistress, professional gambler Kate Haroney (Ariela Morgenstern), and Bess and James' daughter Hattie (Laura Hankin), who finds herself falling in love with a member of the rival Clinton-McLaury gang. During the second act, the focus put on these latter two women detracts from the central love triangle and proves somewhat confusing to anyone unfamiliar with the intricacies of this Wild West tale.

More successful are some of Brourman's tunes, which boast period twangy flavor, particularly the charming round "Pins and Needles" and an expansive number that introduces all of the characters "Unpacking Dreams." But even the composer's work has its shortcomings. Some songs simply stall the action while others are merely generic, contemporary sounding power ballads that pull theatergoers out of the fabled Southwestern milieu (brought to life with flair in Ryan J. Moller's colorful costume design).

And while Cara Reichel does an admirable job in marshalling a large company within the confines of a too-small stage, she has elicited keenly uneven performances from the company, which range from Mignini's wooden performance as the older Josie, to the more accomplished and flavorsome turns from Palumbo as the younger Allie and Morgenstern as the spitfire Kate.


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