One Way Ticket To Hell

Review by Willard Manus

ONE WAY TICKET TO HELL, the new musical in its world premiere run at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre, has an awful lot on its mind. Most of the time it's a broad satire--make that burlesque--of the Reefer Madness-like films of the 1950s in which a good-girl heroine is led astray by a marijuana-puffing, black-leather-clad biker and goes straight to hell for her transgressions. At other times the musical resembles a drag show, a private-eye spoof, a doo-wop concert, a Mommy Dearest spoof.

Punctuating the always-busy story are nineteen musical numbers sung by a high energy, heavily amplified, eight-person cast led by Kristen Howe as Cassandra Leigh, the rebel who swaps the suburbs for the back of a Harley Davidson. Howe has the dynamism and charisma to carry the show, but her over-miked voice grated rather than thrilled.
Tis a pity because she sang her heart out, backed by an unseen but hard-driving live band. Robert Cioffi's music, a pastiche of 1950s and 60s pop styles, was effective and toe-tapping throughout, but Drew Taylor's book & lyrics settled too often for easy targets--the overbearing mother, the bulldyke jailor, the fedora-hatted detective, and so on. Taylor really went to camp on this one.
Still, director Richard Hochberg and choreographer Josh Prince kept the action popping. Aided by Jo Winiarski's colorful set and Jose Lopez's expressive lighting, ONE WAY TICKET TO HELL was an easy show to like and enjoy. Howe and her supporting cast--Erin Stoddard, P.J. Griffith, Ron Nummi, DT Matias, Joe Settineri, Barbara Passolt and Jack Harding--were hard-working and first-rate. The best thing about the show, though, was its refusal to ever take itself seriously.

At the Marilyn Monroe Theatre, Strasberg Creative Center, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd. in W. Hollywood. Call Theatermania at 866-811-4111 or visit