Review by Tulis McCall
Her name was Josephine Marcus. She was a traveling actor, and reached Tombstone at the ripe age of 18. There she lived as a common-law wife (a lot of that was going on in them days) Johnnie Behan until she switched horses and became the common law wife of Wyatt Earp, thereby becoming one of three women in similar legal situations with the Earp brothers.
This is a tale worth telling if only because so much of our history is homogenized. We are given little information on anyone who wasn’t white and male – kind of like today. So to shed light on a woman who left Brooklyn to liver her life in what we like to think of as the Wild West at the age of 18 – I say yes to that.
What I don’t say yes to is this production. The source of the problem is the book, which is weak in the extreme. There is a lot of “I remember” going on here and very little action. The premise is that Josie Earp, (Carolyn Mignini) now an older woman in 1944, is arguing with John Ford over the movie My Darling Clemintine. She is joined in her battle by Allie Earp (common law wife of Virgil Earp). The two have battle scars that they inflicted on one another, and they decide to pull up a couple of teacups of vodka and reminisce.
Why do people keep trying this old saw over and over again, as if THIS TIME it will work. It never works – unless you have some action of course, and this show has none. The young Josie (Mishaela Foucher) leaves home, joins a traveling acting troupe, and arrives in Tombstone and stays. She is rejected by the Earp women, beginning with the young Allie (Stephanie Palumbo) and blamed for the death of Wyatt’s other common law wife Mattie (Anastasia Barzee).
There are stand-out blips on the monitor throughout the evening. The women uniting to humiliate Josie as she performs; a terrific ensemble piece about gossip, Didya Hear?; Mignini’s portrayals of Wyatt and Doc Holiday; the entrance of women in black portraying the OK Corrall incident; Ariela Morgenstern as Kate, Doc Holliday’s woman shines in her musical numbers; the ensemble singing and harmonies. All quite quite wonderful.
The let downs, however, have the winning hand. The orchestra is wildly out of balance and overwhelms the individual voices. The individual voices themselves are also mismatched, with Mignini barely audible and MacRae and Palumbo have voices large enough to fill a very big house. The lighting is unbalanced. The eleven women can barely fit onto the set. The costumes are inconsistent – the leader of the acting company wears tailored slacks that, if accurate, would have caused a ruckus in town. Mattie Earp died nearly 7 years after Josie’s arrival and in a different town nowhere near Tombstone. And finally, Josie Marcus died in 1944 at roughly 80 years old. Mignini is well shy of such an age and this fact also adds to the inconsistencies.
A musical that features eleven women is to be welcomed and applauded; would that we could do so. These fine actors are undermined at every turn. Like the women they portray, they make do with what they have and carry on. Bravo to their effort. Too bad it is not enough to overcome the tepid content of this story of what must have been the extraordinary life of Josie Marcus.
To add insult to injury: Josie Marcus never legally married Wyatt Earp.