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TheatreVirginia's world premiere "Scandals" brings a bit of the old burlesque back to life. 

Happy, Horny and Eager to Please

There are many reasons to go see TheatreVirginia's high-profile, top-dollar world premiere production of "Scandals": the flashy dancing, the peppy music, the lineup of nearly naked babes that make up the chorus, and even the salacious humor that, though it often sounds familiar, still prompts a hearty belly laugh or two. But don't go just to see Dick Van Patten. Though he's at the center of the show's media blitz, the baby-faced actor still seemed to be finding his way through much of the preview performance I saw last Tuesday. Even as the rest of the exuberant cast was hitting mark after mark, Van Patten was often just a half-beat behind.

While a distraction, Van Patten's performance doesn't diminish the fun that's to be had in this eager-to-please production. "Scandals" revives the best of burlesque with song-and-dance numbers alternating with silly sketches. There's even the occasional opportunity for audience participation thrown in. The variety show format eliminates the need for a plot, so free-form farce reigns.

The only consistent through-line here is the sly, wink-and-a-smile humor that talks all about sex without ever saying the word. Playwright Ralph Allen — the man behind Broadway's "Sugar Babies" — has kept the language PG, but manages to get plenty of R-rated ideas across. There's dirty double entendres galore, a "rhymes with Chuck" gag, and even a whole song about one man's unexpected attributes that are discovered only after the lights go out. But it's all tease with a minimum of sleaze.

With Van Patten an unsteady center, the production depends on Mylinda Hull to provide a firm foundation as the show's soubrette, or leading lady. Luckily, she is more than up to the task. The tall and leggy actress confidently commands center stage in the show's big tap-dance numbers and provides able comic backup in several sketches. Her beautiful voice, robust and unwavering, makes her "Shine On Harvest Moon" a second act stand-out.

The show's comic load is mostly borne by Jerold Goldstein, a comedian of the classic Borsht-Belt mold, and Richard Ruiz, a master of the deadpan delivery. Darrin Baker also generates plenty of laughs in the show's abbreviated revision of the classic "Who's on First?" sketch.

Director/choreographer Danny Daniels does a decent job of making this dated material seem fresh but where he really soars is in his innovative dance numbers. His chorus line of scantily clad beauties uses jump ropes, bells, stars and other interesting devices to add variation to familiar themes. His series of fan dances are a particularly nice touch, demonstrating the titillating power of suggestion. Even without the crowd-pleasing gimmicks and props, this is simply some damn good hoofing.

But isolated highlights do not make a complete play. Daniels and Allen fail to build momentum in the second act, so the show, you might say, never reaches a dramatic climax. Instead "Scandals" ends somewhat abruptly and with not nearly the razzle-dazzle it begins with. The "Yankee Doodle Dandy" number that ends the first act, full of flash and bare flesh, would put a more satisfying ending on this saucy survey of burlesque's finest
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