Broadway veteran and Orange Is the New Black regular Annie Golden plays a character named Annie Golden, a 64-year-old former showgirl on the skids who's desperate for a job, in Broadway Bounty Hunter. The musical is now running in its world premiere production at Barrington Stage Company's black box theater in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
The new show is a gift to Golden from three writers: Joe Iconis who wrote the music and lyrics, and Lance Rubin and Jason "SweetTooth" Williams, who collaborated on the book. Despite the prevailing stage-and-film culture that casts women over 40 into roles of crazy maids, mothers, or witches, the trio puts Golden and her talents center stage, and backs it all with a six-piece band to deliver the sounds of the sensational R&B, funk, and rock score.
The show opens with a terrific anthem, "Woman of a Certain Age," performed by Golden at an audition, where she is competing with "catty twenty-year-old chorus girls" for the same part. An ensemble of eight of the most appealing (and young) singing and dancing stage folks — Badia Farha, Anastacia McCleskey, George Salazar, Shannon Tyo, Jason Veasey, Kourtney Keitt, Jamie Patterson, and Porsha Putney — surround Golden for every number as they change costumes and characters with the speed of atoms colliding. Needless to say, Golden doesn't get the part, and retreats to her pitiful room, with her late husband's picture in a frame to keep her company.
Enter the dream scene, enlivened by Scott Watanabe as the Kung Fu master, determined to wreak his revenge on the villainous badass drug dealer and pimp Mac Roundtree, portrayed by the larger-than-life Jeff McCarthy. Golden is appointed to apprehend Mac at his Venezuelan brothel in exchange for lots of cash. Golden is accompanied on the hunt by her partner, the supercool Lazarus, played by Alan H. Green, who is majestic of voice, mercurial, and impressive, especially in his sung asides to the audience. There's a sweetness to the chemistry that gradually warms between Green and Golden, despite the chasm between their ages and life stories. Golden determines that she can fulfill the assignment by treating it as another role in her acting career.
To sum up the rest of the plot, a takeoff on '70s blaxploitation films with a nod to the Kung Fu influence, it's a mess of clichés, warmed-over gags, and unbelievable motivations. But never mind all that. Suffice it to say that by the end Golden and Lazarus reap an unlikely triumph. The mix of wishful thinking and old-time stage gimmicks, not to mention a romance with the hunky Lazarus, save Annie from the vicissitudes of creeping old age.
Julianne Boyd, who stepped in as director two weeks ago, keeps the action tuned to high. She is helped mightily by the MTV-inspired choreography of Jeffrey Page, which is sharply honed by the cast. You have never seen attitude so aptly expressed in the multitude of snapping of fingers flung carelessly over eight pairs of shoulders as you have with these performers. Included in many of the numbers, Golden is cuddly in appearance and downright delicious in her determination to keep up with the gang. She has the moxie to belt out her songs as well, making her an empathetic figure, determined, honest, and filled with a joie de vivre that never quits.
Despite the low-budget production and small stage, the decor and costumes suggest the changing locales, especially in designer Timothy Mackabee's depiction of Venezuela by a whimsical and imaginative parade of miniature potted palm trees, carried by the ensemble. Best of show, however, are the score and lyrics by Iconis, which surely will propel this project beyond its current production. If her solution for seniors switching careers is not for everyone, it sure suits Annie Golden and the audiences treated to this version of her fate.