JOHN BELDEN'S REVIEW:
In anticipation of all the Super Bowl hoopla taking over Indy, Theatre on the Square has staged a production of "Debbie Does Dallas" -- the musical! The classic 1970s porn film is recreated, but with musical numbers in place of the sex scenes. And thanks to excellent casting and the necessarily tongue-in-cheek approach, it totally works.
It should be noted that even though there's no actual sex or nudity, there is enough innuendo, moaning-and-wiggling, double-entendres, surprisingly-rare rough language and other elements to make this a strong PG-13 or mild "R" in movie terms.
The plot centers on Debbie (wonderfully played by Emily Bohannan), a high school cheerleader who dreams of going to Dallas to be a Cowboys Cheerleader. Quite literally from out of the blue comes a letter saying she is accepted for tryouts -- she just has to pay her own way down to Texas. Since her never-seen parents won't give her the money, she and her cheerleader friends (energetically portrayed by Andrea Heiden, Linda Heiden, Maria Meschi and Betsy A. Norton) resolve to get jobs, pooling their efforts and funds under the name "Teen Services." It quickly dawns on Debbie and the girls that the quickest way to get cash is to use their looks and physical "talents" and things get interesting from there.
Meanwhile, cheerleader Lisa (Meschi) seeks to take over the affections of Debbie's boyfriend Rick (Zachary Joyce, in an excellent "porn mustache") once Debbie's out of the picture. The cast also includes Ryan Dunn and Rich Tunnell as Rick's randy football teammates, as well as men who hire the girls for odd jobs, and Carl Cooper in the more mature male roles.
Stripped of the sex scenes, the thin story is reduced to a series of dumb-cheerleader jokes, accentuating the exploitive nature of the source material. Fortunately, in this production the camp is amped up, as Bohannan and company play it all with a wink to the audience. She even has a quick fourth-wall moment, as well as a startling-yet-brief moment of clarity at the end, which all reassures that everyone is in on the joke. It's okay to laugh at this misogynist mess -- which is a good thing, as this is a fun and funny romp of a show.
"Debbie Does Dallas" runs through Feb. 4 at TOTS, 627 Massachusetts Ave.; call (317) 685-8687.