Live From Purgatory

Sophie, Totie, & Belle

She also gives a soul to Tucker's use of blackface. Although the performer was actually billed as "a manipulator of coon melodies," Jones' performance indicates that Tucker actually understood what a crime it was to appropriate black culture in her own act. And in the rare moment in which the stars effectively interact with each other in Sophie, Totie & Belle, the playwrights allow Barth to have the last word on the matter, summing up the racist atmosphere of the entertainment marketplace that, in some places, endures to this day. "Why is it," Barth wonders, "that it takes a fat Jewish broad impersonating a fat black broad to satisfy a bunch of thin white guys?"

Ladies' man Steven G. Anthony has more than he can handle
Ladies' man Steven G. Anthony has more than he can handle

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Written by Joanne Koch and Sarah Blacher Cohen. Directed by Gary Waldman. Musical direction by Phil Hinton. Choreographed by Robert Craig Dawson. Starring Gwendolyn Jones, Kathy Robinson, Stacy Schwartz, and Steven G. Anthony. Through January 2.
The Drama Center, 2345 W. Hillsboro Blvd., Deerfield Beach, 954-571-7909 or 800-633-1194.

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At the Drama Center in Deerfield Beach, Sophie, Totie & Belle rises above its surroundings and even endures the bad wigs and low-rent costumes its actresses are forced to wear, along with the mediocre sound quality and the cheesy set. I didn't see the 1993 version of the show staged by Jan McArt but understand that this is a rewritten and re-staged production. The show has already been extended through mid-February (after January 2 it runs at the Wilton Playhouse), and its popularity will probably not be affected by my suggesting fine-tuning or better production values. But then, in the immortal words of Barth: "I don't mean to be vulgar; it just comes out that way."

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