“Jenny Jones” marries skill with simplicity for over-the-top fun

“He’s too handsome to be a foreign government spy.”

Melodrama gets a bad rap among theatre people. The characters are so broad, the plots so formulaic, that it seems like a genre for tourists.

Iron Springs Chateau would like you to reconsider.

In a world of flame wars and counter-protests, we need a space to boo without hurting anyone. Melodrama meets that need by offering truly ridiculous villains. You can jeer at Drat Gopherbreath because he doesn’t represent a particular country or class or ideology. He’s just a bad guy.

“Jenny Jones—Spy Catcher!” takes place at a 1940s newspaper office. Our heroine discovers that enemy operatives are exchanging messages through her romance column. When dashing agent Morse Code arrives to investigate, the two seem destined for love . . . as soon as Morse can find his ID to prove he’s American.

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The show features classic tunes, including “You Made Me Love You,” “Goin’ to the Chapel,” “Getting to Know You” and a humorously revamped “Secret Agent Man”—all performed live by the cast and their talented pianist.

As usual, the villains get the best lines. Sallie Walker delights as a seductive, cynical, slightly-past-her-prime foreign agent. She dashes ahead of the audience’s initial hesitations, mocking her own age while confidently nailing every draped leg and coy pout. Props as well to Lori Adams-Miller, who plays lovesick friend Debbie Deadline to comedic perfection.

After the melodrama, the actors perform music and comedy bits celebrating the 1970s. They pay homage to Carole King, Cheech and Chong, Tom Jones and Steve Martin’s King Tut, while also staging the hilariously ambitious “Star Wars in Five Minutes.”

Rebecca Haile, stuck playing the ingenue, clearly relishes the chance to break out of character and have a little fun. Her nasal squawking on “Crocodile Rock” instantly endeared her to the audience.

“Jenny Jones—Spy Catcher!” isn’t trying to reinvent theatre. But if you immerse yourself in the ritual, you’ll be surprised how cathartic (and slyly subversive) a good melodrama can be.

Additional Notes:
While it starts as a tongue-in-cheek joke, I’m not sure the producers realized how stubbornly their audience would refuse to cheer for the U.S. government. Hunter Buck plays the hero well, but his pro-establishment lines were met with crickets.

The pre-show dinner package features small, sensible portions (which makes sense in retrospect; it’s not like you can take leftovers with you). I enjoyed all three courses.

“Jenny Jones—Spy Catcher!” contains mild innuendo and drug humor.

Iron Springs Chateau
444 Ruxton Ave, Manitou Springs
Box Office: (719) 685-5104

Playing June 23 – October 14, 2017
Admission: $33 dinner package; $17 show only
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

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