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The women of Debbie Does Dallas
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Debbie Does Dallas, now playing at the Jane Street Theater, is the new musical based on the "classic" film of the same name. It comes to Off-Broadway after playing the New York International Fringe Festival in 2001 to sold-out houses -- but that earlier version simply took the script from the movie (which is a porno, by the way), removed the sex, and played it out on stage. Astonishingly, this new and improved Debbie has succeeded in finding the heart in the infamous blue movie about a high school beauty who dreams of becoming a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and is willing to do whatever -- or whomever -- it takes to fulfill that dream.

Debbie Does Dallas is hard to define. It's not quite a musical -- there are only, perhaps, three numbers that could be considered actual show songs, and only one of them is really any good. And it's not quite a porno, although about 90% of the script is sexual innuendo and there is some male nudity (that's right, male nudity) plus a lot of touching, feeling, and miming of sexual acts here. What the show is, definitely, is a terribly lewd, hysterically funny, high energy romp that satirizes pornography and anything else that comes its way.

Sherie René Scott stars as Debbie, the bubbly and good-hearted high school senior who is elated when she is accepted as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Yet Debbie has a dilemma: How will she afford to get from her Midwestern town to Dallas? Her parents won't help but, fortunately, her four cheerleading teammates will. They all decide to get jobs -- until they realize that minimum wage doesn't amount to much. Before long, Debbie allows her boss to get to second base with her and discovers that there are other things a girl can do (or have done to her) that will earn a fistful of cash.

Following this revelation, the girls set out to see how much money they can amass and how far they'll have to go to do it. Two of them, who are already pretty loose, rise to the occasion without any trepidation, but another is set against doing anything racy since she aspires to be a senator and doesn't want any skeletons in her closet. Debbie herself is adamant about preserving her virginity until she is married. This fact ends up causing her boyfriend, Rick (Jon Patrick Walker), to stray with one of Debbie's cheerleading pals, adding further complications to the plot.

Jon Patrick Walker and Sherie René Scott
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Erica Schmidt, who adapted and directed Debbie, and Susan L. Schwartz, who produced and conceived the show, deserve kudos for making it work. Word is that the Fringe version was rather dull, but this one certainly is not. The intermissionless hour-and-a-half flies by in a whirl of silly cheers, groan-inducing sight gags, hilarious dialogue, and lively music (provided by composer Andrew Sherman and musical supervisor Tom Kitt). And the show has a fantastic cast, especially the girls -- Scott, Mary Catherine Garrison, Caitlin Miller, Tricia Paoluccio, and Jama Williamson -- who primp and pout and deliver their lines with wide-eyed innocence. Their scenes, whether involving the whole group or just a pair of them, are all priceless.

While it's true that the girls never get naked, the show's claim that "if you are old enough to ride the ferris wheel, you are old enough to see Debbie Does Dallas" isn't to be taken seriously. Not to be prudish, but I wouldn't exactly categorize mimed acts of group and oral sex as family fare. Incidentally, it is these moments that come the closest to dragging the show down. It's a long-standing joke that nobody wants -- or, more to the point, needs -- to watch a pornographic movie for more than a few minutes to get the desired effect, and the same goes for watching mock sex scenes.

Also, the creators seem unsure how to end the show (though the choice to convince us momentarily that it's trying to make a feminist statement is clever). This is all the more disappointing given the performance of Sherie René Scott, who shows the intelligence beneath Debbie's air-headedness. It's hard not to care about the character as a real person, and it's a little dispiriting to see her forsake her integrity in the end.

Still, Debbie Does Dallas doesn't attempt to do more than offer some cheap laughs, cheap thrills, and cheap girls -- and that's exactly what it does. So, for a good time, call on Debbie.

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