An up-beat multimedia dance comedy thriller by and starring John Cantwell, who fans will remember from The Nellie Olesons, Love, Connie is a drag show with a difference. It’s a full evening of entertainment that starts in the lively bar of the Silverlake’s Casita del Campo restaurant.
After we all descend into the squeezy and intimate basement to the Cavern Club deathtrap – I mean theater – our drinks in hand, a fun raffle is held as the charming MC warms up the packed house with a raffle and advises the production is “one continuous unnatural act.”
The show begins with a projected short film that features the menacing presence of a black leather-clad stalker type. It’s all very Brian de Palma / Dressed to Kill.
Then, in bursts Connie (John Cantwell) on her platform heels to take over the tiny stage. Connie’s a loveable, blonde-wigged and hirsute heroine who just loves to dance, dance, dance! She regales us with energetic flashdancing (cue the black leotard and leg warmers!) and occasionally shows off her pageantry skilz. Some vague references to Connie’s evidently hick town upbringing include a rumpled beauty pageant sash that reads “In-bred” teamed with a tiara as our girl demonstrates some impressive high-kicks.
The entire show is basically a love letter to her fans and a full-on dancefest set to raucous 80s pop tunes such as B-52s’ chirpy Housework and snippets of tracks by Prince, Blackeyed Peas, Pointer Sisters and Herbie Hancock. The choreography is just fantastic – this six-foot tall bloke has got the moves! – and a costume highlight is a fab red, white & blue bikini complete with red tassels where it counts. Turns out this eye-catching little number is a vintage collectible from the Kathy Ireland collection for Target. Stylin’!
The dance numbers are interspersed with funny fake advertisements, as voiced by someone with a plummy British accent, and we also see further scenes of these sinister projected mini-movies. It transpires that the black-wigged stalker chick Bambi (Kelly Mantle) has evil designs on Connie’s precious white cat, Vickie.
Lightning-speed costume changes and high-energy dance routines keep the slightly demented Connie on her toes and Cantwell maintains a cracking pace. Love, Connie runs for barely 50 minutes, but that leaves plenty of time for killer margaritas in the buzzy upstairs bar.
Molly Cranna co-stars as the shapely cat “Vickie”, complete with kitten mask and anatomically correct white suit. She performs a sweet pas de deux with Connie, set to Madonna’s “Beautiful Stranger,” and this sequence accompanies pre-taped flashback to when Connie adopted her beloved kitty.
Refreshingly, the only dialogue in this hilarious evening is an on-screen chunk of exposition, venomously snarled by our villain Bambi as she explains her deadly motivation. The gorgeous Kelly Mantle clearly relishes her dastardly role. Incidentally, Cantwell has also appeared in campy, fun movies such as Legally Blonde, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
By the way, the mini-movie, directed by Michael Bodie, is beautifully done. Apparently filmed on the streets and staircases of Silver Lake, it was shot in less than two days.
The mood of this spooky little drama was inspired by music and scenes from all the best psycho thrillers, including Dressed to Kill, Sisters, Body Double, Cape Fear, Friday the 13th, White Dog, Psycho, Exorcist 2: The Heretic. Cantwell says he focused mostly on the superb musical scores of Ennio Morricone, Pino Donaggio and Bernard Herrmann and if you’re especially perceptive, you might even hear snatches of music reminiscent of the haunting melodies from Klute by composer Michael Small.
With its emphasis on bubbly fun, Love, Connie is such a tonic! Especially for this Sydney girl – the show was a real blast from the past. I just didn’t realize how much I had been missing my hometown, birthplace of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert, and the drag shows of Oxford Street. Pure enjoyment!
Cantwell is a consummate performer who gives his all and had the enthusiastic and vocally appreciative audience in the palm of his hand.
Be advised, however – this is a risque performance, featuring suggestive groping and scandalous simulated broomstick penetration. Also the subterranean cave “theatre” setting is not suitable for claustrophobes.
But Love, Connie is as funny as hell! Don’t miss this riotous show!
The short film sequences were shot on the Panasonic HPX-170, which is a small HD digital camera that shoots to P2 cards.
Old film-style visual effects (such as scratches, dust and flash frames) were added in post using Final Cut Pro plug-in filters.
Director – Michael Bodie
Executive Producer – Bryan Fuller
Producer – Loretta Ramos
Screenwriter – John Cantwell
Cinematographer – Lisa Wiegand
Camera Operator – Reza Tabrizi
Makeup – David DeLeon & Molly Cranna
Editor – David Kittredge
Original Music Editor – DJ Shyboy
Additional Music Editor – Mr. Dan
Graphic Design – Nubar
Photography by Gabriel Goldberg
Acting by John Cantwell and Kelly Mantle.
Love, Connie runs until THIS WEEKEND O N L Y, with performances on July 23rd & 24th, 2010.
Show starts at 9:00 PM
Cavern Club Celebrity Theatre at the Casita Del Campo Restaurant
1920 Hyperion Ave,
Silver Lake, CA 90027
Phone: (323) 969-2530
Review by Pauline Adamek