Actor and singer Susan Campanaro brings back her over-the-top, but moving persona Lavinia Draper in a new musical, at once riotous and touching, entitled “Missing Person,” with book by Campanaro; terrific original songs by Lynn Fortas, who is at the keyboard; knowing direction by Christopher Scott; and creative choreography by Dance Molinari NYC/Chicago/Los Angeles. “Missing Person” plays on Thursdays at 8 pm, through April 25, at Susan Batson Studio, 311 West 43rd Street, Room 201. The first night, on March 28, is considered here.
The scene is a holding cell in South Florida, equipped with a metal bench and metal toilet—the height of luxurious accommodations—and face down on the bench is Lavinia, with her distinctive unruly blonde ‘do,’ in a furry white robe, black-and-white polka dot bikini peeking out, and bare legs, her high heels and short versatile robe on the floor next to the bench. She awakens with a scream.
Under arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct, Lavinia reviews her life for an unseen cellmate named Mary, for an unseen and uncaring prison guard, and for us, while waiting for justice to be done. Her earthy autobiographical songs range from seductive numbers from her nightclub act to laments for her failing career, and paeans to the women who’ve influenced her, but they all essentially reflect the determination of a survivor.
Lavinia shares her motto, “As long as I’m working, I’m happy,” in an upbeat anthem, and goes disco with “This One’s for the Fans.” She limns the significant men in her life, a sorry lot, from cigar-chomping manager Walter to coke addict and kept boy Nigel, and with feeling, the significant Bettys in her life: Betty Buckley, whom she understudied in “Cats,” a thankless lot—“I remember being there in the darkness,” she sings, echoing “Memory”—and the saintly First Lady of rehab—“Thank you, Betty Ford!”
Tickets priced at $20 are available at www.purplepass.com/laviniadraper