Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nobody puts Betty in a coma

I was pretty excited last night when we were scrolling through Law & Order: SVU episodes on our TiVo and we came across the plot description where Judy Kuhn stars as a beating victim whose mentally disabled but emotionally resilient daughter is the only witness to her attack.

Judy Kuhn—for those of you who have to ask and are therefore never going to win any money on Broadway Edition Jeopardy!—is the powerhouse singer with multiple Tony nominations who created Broadway’s original Cosette in Les Misérables and Florence in Chess. Her career has also taken her from the ill-fated (two performances!) Rags to the charming She Loves Me to The Mystery of Edwin Drood—not to mention the title singing role in Disney’s Pocahontas. She’s back on Broadway (starting this week, in fact) playing Cosette’s doomed mother Fantine in the Les Misérables revival. And she played plucky Betty Schaefer in the Los Angeles pre-Broadway production of Sunset Boulevard, though she got pregnant and had to hand the role over to the talented Alice Ripley when it went to Broadway.

Judy’s a diva in the best sense of the word. And I have secretly acted out her “Someone Else’s Story” in front of countless bedroom mirrors since I first stumbled on the Broadway Chess cast album when I was in college. So you can see how excited we were last night at the prospect of watching her struggle valiantly through a brutal attack and the long, slow road to recovery as she fights her own demons and shepherds her mentally disabled but emotionally resilient daughter through the cold, hard brutality of the New York City court system.

So we snuggled back and waited for her first appearance. After her bloodied body had been discovered and whisked off to the hospital, of course.

We waited patiently while her husband set up their family’s backstory to Christopher Meloni and the lesser cops.

We waited patiently while none other than the FBI mysteriously intervened on the husband’s behalf.

We waited patiently while the mentally disabled but emotionally resilient daughter smiled through her prosthetic teeth and finished every clue-bearing monologue with “The end.”

We waited patiently while Christopher Meloni steadfastly remained in his shirt although there were literally thousands of places in the script where he could have logically taken it off.

And eventually Judy made her tragic post-attack appearance. In a freakin’ coma. And even though she eventually came out of the coma, the script ended up giving her only five lines and one post-apocalyptic crying jag and not one show-stopping ballad.

This woman lost her mother to prostitution in 1820s France. She dated a Cold War metaphor professional chess player who thought James Joyce was her college roommate. The love of her life was gunned down by a delusional screen diva in a turban. A turban! She deserves better than a coma.

Sigh. But since Christopher Meloni never gets to hone his acting chops in a Speedo, I guess we can’t expect the Law & Order: SVU producers to let someone like Judy Kuhn do something equally artistic. Like maybe sell her locket and her hair and her body and then die a long, slow tragic death to the strains of a haunting yet catchy song about tigers and lost dreams.

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