Abstinence meets phone sex in TOUCHTONES, a musical fantasy in world premiere at the Arden. Naughty and nice collide in the adventures of Christine (Alex Keiper) a virginal neophyte who becomes a rising star in the phone sex biz after breaking up with her fiancé, Justin (Michael Doherty). A Golden Circle chastity dweeb with a white wedding dress fetish, he cheated on her over a sex phone line.
Briefly but deftly drawn and actually sweet co-worker characters are played by fine actors. Wonderful musicians in the live mini-orchestra play middle-of-the-road musical fare by collaborator Robert Maggio. So why isn’t this show a success?
One problem is that a couple of clever songs with snappy lyrics are offset by too many weak, over-sentimentalized, over-explained personal ballads. Another problem is that the show is just too simplistic in concept, especially coming from Michael Hollinger, a pretty sophisticated writer.
At intermission I hoped against hope that all the prognosticators in the ladies room and I would be wrong. But we were not: Justin discovers Christine’s secret job, suffers, and becomes ready to do what she wants. After a walk on the wild and tawdry side a purportedly self-actualized Christine still wants what she wanted before. The heroine transforms from a woman who is ready and wants to “do it” to a few months older woman who is ready and wants to “do it.”
Early on you see where this show is going, and it goes there.
[Arden Theatre Company] October 19-December 3, 2017; ardentheatre.org