Left - Right: Alison Ewing, Molly Bell, Carrie Madsen. In the Fringe NYC production. Photo credit: Dixie Sheridan

BECOMING BRITNEY: A Snarky Musical Adventure. Book, Music and Lyrics by: Molly Bell & Daya Curley. Directed by: Daya Curley. Choreographed by: Mandy Bell, Lisa Navarro & Molly Bell. Center REPertory Company, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. 925.943.7469 or .October 28th through November 14,, 2010.


Every so often a show that sees the light of day at a Fringe Festival will move to a conventional venue and be a hit. Probably the most famous one to transition from Fringe to become a huge success is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern by Tom Stoppard that started in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Becoming Britney, now playing in the intimate Black Box Theatre at Center Rep garnered so-so reviews for its five performances at the New York Fringe in 2009 and does not make a favorable impression in its West Coast premiere.

If you have read the tabloids, and even the mainstream newspapers, over the past years you are familiar with the name of Britney Spears. She became a teenage pop star who handled fame and fortune badly, became involved with drugs, bore two children from two disastrous marriages ending up in a court ordered commitment to a rehabilitation center. In a final gesture of defiance or despair, she inexplicably shaved off her beautiful hair. This is the basic storyline of Becoming Britney that apparently takes many liberties with the facts, feebly attempting to extract humor based on the life of a pathetic popular musical icon who has fallen from grace.

The time is the present. A bald Britney (Molly Bell) arrives at a rehab center called “Promises, Promises”, that advertises as a "PR fixery and Spirit Spa." The narrator simply called “The Moderator” leads a motley crew of misfits (listed in order of appearance) listed as Man 2 (Keith Pinto), Woman 1 (Brittney Ogle), Woman 2 (Tielle Baker) and Man 1 (Adam Barry) in group therapy. Each character plays multiple roles as Britney, spills out the details of her circuitous role to stardom and her descent into the hell that is public approbation and personal degradation.

All the warts show, beginning with the difficult childhood of being born poor with a controlling mother. Britney, from a early age is desirous of being on stage. The grainy black and white home movies of young Britney projected on the omnipresent screen rear stage envision sheer innocence. Her professional career begins with a stint as a Mouseketeer followed by her rise to international fame. This leads to her tumultuous relationship with Justin Timberlake, an eventual marriage to Kevin Federline, the birth of her 2 children, the breakup of her marriage and the coup de grace of the cutting of her hair (in a tasteless scene as a nude in a barber chair).

Yes, the story is ripped from the headlines and the book, lyrics and music by Molly Bell and Daya Curley show their fantastic ability. The PR packet list 11 original songs but rest assured you will not be humming them when you leave the theater. Molly Bell lip-syncs Britney’s well known songs and is knockout when it is her turn to use her own voice as she dances up a storm and always commands the stage. The ensemble cast is extremely talented with good voices; effervescent enthusiasm displaying believable change of character with each role assigned them.

Musical director Greg Zema is a wiz, Daya Curley directs with pizza (he also designed he marvelous, often psychedelic video projections of which there are many) and the hectic choreography (Mandy Bell & Lisa Navarro) is right on.

Why then is this not a rave review. The reason can be found in the sub-title: A Snarky Musical Adventure. Definition of “snarky” is snide and sarcastic, usually out of irritation. Although the entire team attempts to put a hopeful spin on Britney’s fate by suggesting that through the musical rehabilitation there will eventually be a smash hit on Broadway with Britney’s name in lights. It does not compute since extracting humor from a pathetic life is tasteless. Thankfully, the running time is only 85 minutes.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of