'Life of an Actress: The Musical': Film Review
Paul Chau's indie movie musical depicts the travails of three struggling New York actresses
Veteran theater critics have long since learned to shudder at the phrase "The Musical" when tacked on to a show's title. That fear is unlikely to be abated by Paul Chau's film inspired by his similarly titled 2009 documentary profiling eleven New York actresses age 23-70. Suffice it to say that Life of an Actress: The Musical is no A Chorus Line in its fictionalized depiction of their professional travails.
The main characters are three struggling actresses who make ends meet by working as waitresses at a New York City diner: 41-year-old Hannah (Tony Award-nominated Orfeh, Legally Blonde) is worrying that time is passing her by; 30-year-old Sandy (Allison Case) decides to try her hand at writing; and 25-year-old Jen (Taylor Louderman) has decamped to Los Angeles where she finds herself competing with buxom blondes.
Diner owner Charlie (Bart Shatto) is facing his own travails, struggling to pay the bills and resisting the entreaties of a smarmy real estate developer (Richard H. Blake) to sell the property so it can be torn down to make room for, what else, condos.
Dutifully dramatizing the concerns expressed in the documentary—ageism, sexism, the casting couch, the horrors of auditioning, etc.—the film delivers one badly lip-synched musical number after another. Featuring atrocious lyrics and forgettable melodies, the songs composed by the director/screenwriter blend together to numbing effect, with only the veteran Orfeh managing to put them over with any panache. The one decent number, featuring a group of young performers jauntily singing "I Wish I Was SAG" on the beach, is counterbalanced by the nadir, one literally sung from a deathbed.
Featuring amateurish production values and mostly subpar performances, the seemingly endless film is apparently designed to serve as a sort of cinematic tryout for a hoped-for Broadway production. Good luck with that; this material wouldn't pass muster in a dinner theater in Peoria.
Production: PC Productions
Cast: Orfeh, Taylor Louderman, Allison Cae, Bart Shatto, Xavier Cano, Richard H. Blake
Director/screenwriter/producer/composer: Paul Chau
Executive producers: Dan Frishwasser, Richard Speciale
Director of photography: Ben Wolf
Production designer: Kaet McAnneny
Editor: Daniel Loewenthal
Costume designer: Moira Shaughnessy
Casting: Geoff Josselson
No rating, 124 min.