James M. Cain meets George M. Cohan in Mildred Fierce, Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans’ hoofing hoot of a riff on the 1945 Joan Crawford film based on Cain’s novel about a greedy, artsy Bad Seed and her self-flagellating, if money-making, martyr mom. Who knew that what Mildred Pierce needed were song, dance, and the multi-talented Varla Jean Merman (Jeffery Roberson), as formidable — if not quite as masculine — a femme as Crawford? The combination of hard boil and soft-shoe in this Orphans extravaganza is irresistible — as are the twinkling city lights and architectural miniatures of Amelia Gossett and Lauren Duffy’s movie-poster-papered set, Scott Martino’s endless array of big-shouldered, cinch-waisted, Crawford-worthy costumes, and the spirited tap routines choreographed by Delta Miles (including a bankruptcy number featuring dancing vultures). Parodist Landry lives at the intersection of Old Hollywood and film noir, and the Orphans are so droll and energetic in this one that the real Crawford would have wanted to adopt them. Just hold the coat hangers — they might damage the sequins.
Gold Dust Orphans at Machine, 1254 Boylston St, Boston :: Through March 17 :: $40-$50 :: 800.838.3006 or brownpapertickets.com