Gender bender 

American Cabaret Theatre
Directed by Bob Harbin
Through June 1

A girl playing a guy who is a female impersonator: This is the gender blender that is Victor/Victoria, now playing at the American Cabaret Theatre.

To set the mood, Carroll Todd, aka Toddy (Ron Spencer), sings about the lesser-known haunts of “gay” Paris in the fantastical opening number “Paris by Night.” Spencer plays the role of girl’s best gay friend, getting Victoria (Bobbi Bates) — as Victor — into show biz. But when Chicago gangster King Marchan (Dave Ruark) enters the picture, Victoria isn’t so keen about being a man anymore.

Bates has an amazing voice, as seen previously on many other Indianapolis stages, and vocal director John D. Phillips gives her a chance to really show it off. Under Bob Harbin’s direction, Victoria and Toddy’s interaction is natural and delightful. Spencer is a perfect fit for Toddy, with his handsome singing voice and just-so, gay sophisticate mannerisms. Ruark also has a memorable voice, and is another familiar face to local stages. Here he is a believable if sweet gangster. His bodyguard, Squash (Darrin Gowan), is the muscle, which makes his epiphany the most satisfying.

While most of the cast is spot-on, Harbin pushes a couple characters over the top: Norma (Nathalie Cruz) is just annoying, overdoing the “dumb dame” shtick, and Henri LaBisse (Dane Rogers) is saddled with an affected French accent that makes his lines incomprehensible.

Jeff Farley’s costuming is glorious, especially for Victor’s stage numbers, as is the double set, which rotates. Choreography, by Carol Worcel and Kenny Shepard, is apropos. The live band, under music director John Austin Butsch, is the flourish on a show that lives up to its ticket price.

Victor/Victoria continues through June 1 at the American Cabaret Theatre, 401 E. Michigan St. For tickets, $25-$30, call 317-631-0334 or go to

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