Creative Cauldron presents the regional premiere of Audrey: The New Musical, with book, music, and lyrics by Danielle E. Moore, directed by Laura Connors Hull, and with musical direction by Merissa Driscoll. This is the company’s second production in its Bold New Works series, which focuses on uplifting the voices of under-represented artists through the development of works written by women or women-identifying writers. Moore’s musical studies the life of the cinema icon Audrey Hepburn through song and dance, the first production to present her through this medium. Developing a piece that examines such a gargantuan life is a tall order, and the resulting production is one of grand scale. While there certainly is a lot to enjoy about this production, there are also notable elements that make me wonder if perhaps this venue bit off more than they could chew with this choice.
Set designer Margie Jervis opens the show with two old-fashioned cameras pointed at projection screens. Due, I’m guessing, to the intimate space, projections designed by James Morrison are heavily relied upon for different settings, while large set pieces are wheeled on and offstage. Lighting designer Lynn Joslin uses artfully framed spots and shadow work to help focus the audience’s attention and enhance the tone. However, easily the most memorable technical element is the costumes, also done by Jervis. I had forgotten how many iconic looks were inspired by Audrey, and they were immediately recognizable, from the white-and-black appliquéd gown that she wore in Sabrina to the famous “little black dress” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. These are just two examples from the vast and impressive wardrobe, which even has its own fun number titled “Head of the Class,” where two elite fashion designers battle over who will dress her for an event.
Morgan Arrivillaga plays Audrey as a young girl, an eager ballet student living in the Netherlands. Audrey is seen practicing her ballet moves as her parents urgently whisper to each other in the background; as a child, she is blissfully unaware of Europe’s political climate. However, after World War II is officially declared, she bravely joins the Dutch resistance before suffering from malnutrition in her war-torn climate. These effects will take their toll on her overall health, forcing her to abandon her passion for dance and reluctantly fall into acting instead.
Audrey, played as an adult by Rebecca Ballinger, has a fast and furious ascent to fame. She enjoys her work, shown in the cheerful number “Roman Holiday” with Gregory Peck, played by Garrett Matthews. However, this new lifestyle has huge effects on her personal life, beginning with her broken engagement to James Hanson in the number “I’ve Got Plans.” Her professional life will continue to influence and rule her private life, from her salacious relationship with her married costar William Holden, played by Ricky Drummond, to her ill-fated marriage to Mel Ferrer, played by Santiago Alfonzo Meza. There are a lot of men in Audrey’s life, though she finds her closest confidant in fashion designer Givenchy, played by Tyler Cramer. Their friendship easily evokes the truest chemistry onstage, and the pair share a lot of memorable moments, both funny and sincere. Finally, Audrey showcases her matured relationship with herself, a woman who fought long and hard to be her own person in a world where everyone wanted to claim her. This is best shown in “Make a Spectacle of Yourself,” a number that also highlights the talents of Arrivillaga, who also produced the choreography for this show.
As far as the material itself, Audrey: The New Musical is surely entertaining. I do, however, have some qualms about its overall execution. While the actors all show some good potential, I have to say that in my opinion, their talents don’t fully rise to the occasion. This is especially true in the vocals, which were often strained and off-pitch across the entirety of the cast. There was also a fair share of over-affected accents and flubbed lines of dialogue. This is not to say that the show was not enjoyable, because it was, but I did come away with the feeling that it was just too much show for the cast, and the venue, to expertly handle. It’s a big show that demands a lot of energy and resources. However, you can’t blame Creative Cauldron for wanting to go out with a bang—after all, this is their last show at their current venue before moving on to a larger space in 2024. Congratulations, Creative Cauldron!
Creative Cauldron’s production of Audrey: The New Musical is a must-see for die-hard Audrey Hepburn fans, and lovers of old Hollywood cinema and glamour will particularly enjoy themselves as well!
Running Time: Two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
Audrey: The New Musical plays through June 4, 2023 (Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm), at Creative Cauldron, 410 South Maple Avenue, Retail 116, Falls Church, VA. Purchase tickets (adults, $50–$40; students, $25) online or call the box office, at 703-436-9948.
The program for Audrey is online here.
COVID Safety: Masks are optional in the lobby but required while inside the theater during all indoor performances. See Creative Cauldron’s complete COVID-19 Theater Protocols.