Jacqueline Susann's 1966 bestseller, Valley of the Dolls, explored the price of fame, wealth and love in the duplicitous world of Hollywood excess. A trashfest rife with jealousy, plastic surgery, insanity and self-destruction, the camp classic -- laughably adapted for the screen in 1967 -- proved conclusively that uppers and downers won't erase a woman's pain, even when washed down with Scotch and caviar.
"It's one of the most deliciously bad films," says writer/director Kristine Hipps, an alumna of Chicago's famed Second City improv troupe. "I've always wanted to do a stage version of it."
Hipps will get her chance beginning Thursday, October 6, when she unveils her parody, Land of the Dolls, at the Bug Theatre. "We didn't take any direct lines, so we're completely aboveboard," Hipps insists. "We changed the names of the characters, but people who are familiar with the movie will know who's who."
Land's trio of doomed damsels faithfully allude to Barbara Perkins's prudish WASP (Sara Hardesty as Lana Wells), Sharon Tate's bra-busting bimbo (Amber Bogdewiecz as Janette West) and Patty Duke's overbearing bitch on wheels (Janine Kehlenbach as Stevie O'Mara). The Bug's multimedia extravaganza promises filmed flashbacks, men in drag, a new JFK conspiracy theory, and cameos by actors playing Sean Connery and George Burns.
"We also have Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in a telethon for muscular dystrophy," Hipps adds. "The set was inspired by Laugh-In, so it's all psychedelic backdrops."
Portraying Susan Hayward's aging Broadway diva, Stella Dawson (aka "Old Ironsides"), Hipps will hoof her way through a bizarre dance number until the climactic scene when her wig is torn off and flushed down the toilet. "We've elaborated the catfight a little bit," Hipps allows. "We have dummies involved, and clothes tearing off."
If any shred of dignity remains after Land's month-long run, Hipps will turn Paper Cat Productions, her theater enterprise for over four years, into a full-time independent-film company. "Since this is our swan song," she says, "we're pulling out all the stops."
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