Dallas — The Woman Who Knew Too Much is billed as a “fantasy noir musical,” which is a pretty tall order for just under two hours, but playwright Kevin Grammer and the creative team of The Ochre House deliver exactly that.
Violet, the title character, spends her days in a hospital room being visited by doctors, nurses and family. It is only when she goes to sleep that we are thrust into The Jade, a seedy but glamorous nightclub. In this world, Violet is one of many confident, conniving, women who want to take over the club. Like all good noir, the show is filled with crime, drama, true love and betrayal.
The show features 12 musical numbers including “Welcome to the Jade” in which the set seamlessly transforms into the nightclub of the same name. The cast is beautifully choreographed for this song with a delightful mix of form and function; couples twirl while placing chairs, tablecloths flourish with kicks, and a bed becomes a bar. While this style of scene change is nothing new, the tightness of the cast is well highlighted here as well as Mitchell Parrack’s carpenter skills. The Ochre House consistently delivers new works, powerful performances, and a dash of grit that keeps Deep Ellum/Exposition Park firmly staked as a haven for artists in Dallas.
In the wordless opening number Violet, played brilliantly by Marti Etheridge, discovers her surroundings and attempts to make sense of what seems like her own body. She is fascinating to watch throughout the show, but in these first few minutes Etheridge sets the bar for the caliber of the performances to come. Throughout the show her performance is marked by intensity coupled with a sweet coyness that keeps the audience rapt while she moves easily between the two worlds Violet inhabits.
Other standout performances from the show include Yvonne, Violet’s sister, played by Olivia de Guzman, who delivers a show-stopping song in the second act. Watching Etheridge and Guzman play off one another is one of the highlights of the show. Justin Locklear’s Max is charming and brings a needed calm presence to the stage, while Carla Parker delivers a strong performance as Marguerite, boss of the seedy side of The Jade.
Matthew Posey’s set design is rich without being overly complicated and the gold Art Deco details and jade colored walls spill out from the stage and into the house, wrapping the audience into the performance. The costumes are gorgeous and saturated, paying homage to the noir genre.
The pace of the show frequently undulates from fast-moving to slow and intense, which asks a lot of the audience. Some of the lyrics are a little too on-the-nose for a musical about lost memory, but overall, The Woman Who Knew Too Much will have fans of noir and fantasy on the edge of their seats.