The headliners are not getting along, the backup singers seem to live in their own worlds and everybody on the bus is ready to strangle the manager over financial issues.
That is the all-too-typical music tour that provides the backdrop for the new musical comedy by Sheran Keyton and Joe Rogers, Venus & Mars, which DVA Productions opened Friday at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.
The show reunites the trio of actress-writer Keyton, musical director and composer Rogers and comic actor Robert Rouse, who have lent their talents to numerous sparkling productions at Jubilee Theatre over the years.
The script chronicles the musical trials of Lady Venus Devereaux (Keyton) and Olivier “Mars” Marsalis (Rouse), two singers with past successes who are beginning to fade from public memory. So when manager Bretheren Smith (Jage Bothmann) calls to offer a “$10 million tour,” both artists jump at the chance — without knowing the other is involved.
They are also taken by surprise by the six backup singers Smith has lined up for the tour. While Venus and Mars are old-school soul, the backing players are all about rap, hip-hop and reggae.
That would be enough to create a volatile environment, but when it becomes clear that the money involved is not what anybody expected, things really start to unravel. But, somehow, the troupe continues to make the show go on.
This production, directed by Tyrone King, offers some fine playing and a few good numbers (Google Me is an especially fun tune) from Rogers and his trio. It is also good to see Keyton and Rouse sharing a stage again. Their comedic and vocal sparring is always a treat to see and hear.
Durant Searcy (Rob), Donald Stanciell (Benny) and Laura L. Jones (Marissa) contribute some nice vocal work as three of the backup singers. Aaron Petite, as the rambunctious Rastafarian Rasta Jah, and Bothmann provide some superior acting.
But, on the whole, this show does not work as well as some others of this type that have been presented by this company, which is most at home when doing a musical. There are a few good songs and a few good laughs, but not really enough of either.
The primary problem seems to be that the script is overloaded with characters. Three backup singers might have been manageable, but six is way too many. There is not enough time to get to know all of these characters (we never learn, for example, why Venus and Mars hate one another so much) or what motivates them, so there is seldom any impact to their actions.
Because of this overpopulation, we do not see and hear enough from Keyton and Rouse.
Also, the voices are not as strong across the cast as is typical with this company. Fewer characters would have made it easier to keep the overall quality of the singing up to a higher standard.
So you have to be a real fan of Keyton, Rogers and Rouse to find much to get excited about in this particular show. Since they have all done better work in better shows, they are, unfortunately, competing with their hard-earned reputations in this one.
Venus & Mars
▪ Through Sept. 13
▪ Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy St.
▪ 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
▪ 817-313-3052; www.dvaproductions.org