I’m not going to lie, I was surprised to hear that anyone locally was producing “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” David Yazbeck’s busy, flavorful musical based on the 1988 film of the same name by Pedro Almodovar. Despite three Tony Award nominations and raves from Patrick Hinds, host of the Theater People podcast (one of my most trusted sources of Broadway history) it did not pan out with critics and played roughly 90 days on Broadway.
. . . a dynamite cast with unbelievable vocals and spot-on comedic chops.
Based on this reputation, I was interested to see what UB Theatre and Dance would be able to do with a Spanish score and vivacious characters despite a confusing storyline. Honestly? It was much better than I expected.
“Women on the Verge” covers a 48-hour period in 1980s Madrid where a group of women simultaneously experience tumultuous disruptions to their love lives. There’s Pepa, who’s longing to track down her suddenly distant lover, Ivan; Lucia, Ivan’s wife; Candela, Pepa’s best friend and a ditzy supermodel; and that’s just the beginning.
Selina Iozzo dazzles as Pepa, with a sultry voice and believable balance of being a grounded, determined woman and a hopelessly anxious mess.
Lucia, Ivan’s wife, is played by a powerful Hannah Keller. Keller had large shoes to fill knowing that the other professional incarnation of her character was played by Patti LuPone, and she killed it. Lucia’s mental stability just doesn’t exist but man, Keller knows how to play to the back of the house between hilarious facial expressions and body language and a powerful belt.
Camille Capello tackles arguably one of the show’s most difficult songs, “Model Behavior” as Candela. The tongue-twisting lyrics are no cakewalk but Capello nailed it. Despite her character’s lack of intelligence, she’s endearing and genuine, shining especially in some tender-hearted moments with William Hin, who hilariously portrays Lucia and Ivan’s son, Carlos.
In addition to Rory Tamimie’s velvety pipes as Ivan and Holden Bath and Matthew Rittler’s memorable detective duo, ensemblist Taylor Burrows has a hilarious scene as Ivan’s concierge, who made me laugh so hard in her 2 minute scene that I thought about it long after the curtain call.
The choreography and music is great, but the show’s faults lie in the pacing and flow of the story. Just when the show seems to want to follow a new character and plot point, it shifts gears completely to focus on a new character and plot point. By the end of Act I, you’re thankful all the characters end up in the same room just because it’s much less confusing.
Katherine Metzler’s set design was heavily influenced by the works of Pablo Picasso. Mixed with vibrant costumes by Mary Alice Groat, it proved to be too much in certain scenes while dazzling in others.
However, the show’s flaws are easy to forget thanks to a dynamite cast with unbelievable vocals and spot-on comedic chops. The actors’ performances are packed with passion and hilarity, making a nearly three hour show feel rather fun and enjoyable to experience.
Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.
“Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” runs through May 6 at UB’s Center for the Arts. For more information, click here.