Caught a Wednesday matinee preview of this new musical with book, lyrics (and additional music) by Kathie Lee Gifford. It is still a work in progress and I'm told a good twenty minutes have already been cut with more changes to come.
Carolee Carmello is indeed working her little heart out playing Aimee Semple McPherson from the age of 14 to her death at 54 from painkiller abuse.
Aimee apparently had a religious mother as fanatical as Carrie's although this story doesn't end with flying cutlery and buckets of blood. Instead, Mama becomes Aimee's business manager. The story is full of such surprising turnabouts including a moment where Aimee literally tears up a bible like a strongman with a phone book then minutes later decides to spread the Lord's word.
Roz Ryan is an audience fave as the bordello madam who joins Sister Aimee's travelling show although her somewhat stereotypical character has lines along the lines of "They're so good and pious that they pious me off!"
Edward Watts is very good as Aimee's first husband, the preacher Robert Semple and also her caddish lover David Hutton. As the latter, Mr. Watts is distractingly but fetchingly unclad for several scenes.
There is also good work from George Hearn, still in robust voice, and Aussie Benjamin Howes in a variety of roles. But the evening is built on Carmello's performance and she sings David Friedman & David Pomeranz's music for all it's worth.
Ultimately the show suffers from the same problem as CHAPLIN (Charlie even makes a brief appearance in this one along with Louella Parsons and William Randolph Hearst. We know it's him because Aimee greets him at a party with "Why, William Randolph Hearst!"). Both shows boast superb star performances but cover an entire lifetime rather superficially, leaving the impression that the material was transcribed directly from well-thumbed biographies. At least SCANDALOUS sends you out wanting to learn more about the mysterious Mrs. Semple McPherson whose legacy remains powerful to this day.