`Spider Woman' Not A Typical Musical

The Pauper Players spring musical production opening tonight has the kiss of death.

But that's not a bad thing.

The character referenced in the musical's title, "Kiss of the Spider Woman," is an incarnation of death, and her kiss is just part of the musical's dark appeal.

The production was a 1985 Broadway hit and tells the story of two cellmates, Molina and Valentin, in a grim prison in Latin America who survive by sharing a fantasy, escaping into the many movies of the beautiful film star Aurora.

Like the original, the Pauper Players production is intended for mature audiences only due to the show's nudity and sexual content.

David Lorenc, a Pauper Players veteran and UNC senior, plays Molina, a gay window dresser arrested for sexual indecencies with a minor.

"When you think of musicals, you think of musical comedy. This is a much darker, and more haunting tale. It's not 'Oklahoma' by a long stretch," Lorenc said.

Even while dreaming of Aurora and a happier place beyond his cell, Molina is haunted by the Spider Woman's deadly presence.

Amber Ruskin, a UNC senior who has starred in many Pauper Player productions, plays both phantasms of Molina's imagination. Ruskin said she actually prefers the role of the powerful role of the Spider Woman to that of Judy Garland-ish Aurora.

"A lot of the story's intensity comes from the interaction between two diverse characters and the development of their relationship," Lorenc said.

Molina's cellmate, Valentin, is a political revolutionary from the lower class. Both have to cope with being stuck in a cell with someone completely different, said Christian Barillas, who played Valentin.

Barillas is a senior at UNC, and also a native of Guatemala who can bring his own Latin American background to the show.

"The musical is a very controversial show, but it has a lot of appeal and raw emotion," Barillas said.

The director of the show, UNC graduate Jon Howle, used the original musical book and score for the production. Howle has worked with professional companies in New York, and this will be his last show at UNC before returning to the Big Apple.

"It's wonderful working with Jon," said Rustin of Howle's direction. "He brings such intensity to his work."

"Kiss of the Spider Woman" shows every night at 8 p.m. on April 20 through April 22 with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 21 and 22. Tickets are $5 or $10.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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