A Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Rock Opera
Jordan Kai Burnett almost makes Tanya Harding likable in "Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera."
Photo credit: Barry Weiss
Twenty years ago, Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding competed in a skate-off for Olympic gold at Lillehammer, seven weeks after some of Harding's associates attacked Kerrigan by hitting her on the leg. Last year, Celebration Theatre, the oldest continuously-operating LGBTQQIA theater in the country, lost its permanent performance space in West Hollywood. These two events converged in The Music of Tonya and Nancy: A Rock Opera at the King King nightclub in Hollywood on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
The show was a benefit for Celebration's efforts to find a new space it can permanently call its own (it is currently operating out of the Atwater Village Theatre), and was presented by the Los Angeles Rock Opera Company. There have been conversations about mounting the show in the fall in a full production (not with Celebration), and the concert showcased what audiences might expect.
Now, we don't mean to kick Celebration while it's down. It has done some really nice work in the past, and we definitely want it to raise as much money as possible for their new home. But the production, semi-staged by director/choreographer Janet Roston, was the epitome of "campy," and not necessarily in a good way.
Granted, it's not easy to write a serious rock opera about "Skategate," as the media dubbed the incident, but the show goes for the cheese and then some. For what it's worth, Jordan Kai Burnett brings some swaggering gravity to Tonya - whom the show makes out to be more sympathetic than Laura L. Thomas' Nancy (who does bear an eerie resemblance to Kerrigan).
Celebration's co-artistic director Michael Shepperd and Jesse Merlin were effectively humorous as Shawn Eckhardt and Shane Stant, the criminals who did the deed, and there are some redeeming moments when Michael Teoli's score is as clever as it thinks it is, as evidenced by some wise reprises of earlier themes. However, those moments are almost entirely negated by the times where the show could use judicious editing (a second repetition of "When You Wake Up Sleeping in Your Car in Estacada" adds nothing positive to the experience).
Let's hope the fall production will not be presented at the club, where the terrible acoustics made it nearly impossible to understand the lyrics in a show that is almost entirely sung-through. While the incident was a huge deal at the time, as Matthew Ballestero's canny narrator points out, there are now plenty of people who don't remember it very well - or aren't old enough for it to have made an impression on them, making it very easy to be confused.
The King King Nightclub, 6555 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Feb. 5, 8 p.m. (323) 957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated the timing of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. We regret the error.
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