Nuts and chews
- Stephen Blair
- Portland Tribune - Features
Chocolate shop patrons share secrets in musical comedy
Joan Freed's one-woman musical comedy, 'Chocolate Confessions,' played to sold-out audiences at Lake Oswego's Lakewood Center last month. Freed portrays Coco Bliss, owner of a chocolate shop, as well as the other 11 women who drop by the shop to satisfy their longing for truffles and nonpareils. Each has a song to sing and a secret to spill.
Freed, who developed the show and now brings it to The Old Church, sees Bliss as the ringleader of this confectionery circus.
'At the beginning of the show Coco greets the audience and talks about her life in the chocolate business,' she says. 'She's like the local bartender. People like to talk to her.'
Hence the stream of customers that flows through the door to confide in Bliss, as well as sample her goods. When a doorbell rings to signal the arrival of each customer, Freed scurries offstage, throws on a new costume and re-emerges as a different character.
The characters, too, are like a box of chocolates. That is, you never know what you're going to get next. In the tradition of Marilyn Monroe, there's Lynn Tizzie, a blond sexpot addicted to romance novels. Always on the lookout for a man, she sings 'Mr. Right' by Kurt Weill.
Then comes Ms. Pythagorus, a geometry wiz who sings a tune dear to her heart, 'The Shape of Things.' Contessa Natasha Kinki, a glamorous Russian opera star, is another memorable visitor.
'Chocolate Confessions' begs comparison with the film 'Chocolat,' which also is about a chocolate shop owner and her quirky customers.
'The movie came out after I'd written most of the show,' Freed says. 'The film is more of a fairy tale, while my show is a musical comedy. The setting is all they have in common.'
Freed, a former mathematician, got her start in musical theater in 1993. Inspired by her children's progress in their acting classes, she began taking acting classes and voice lessons herself.
She selected the songs for 'Chocolate Confessions' from lesser-known stage musicals such as 'She Loves Me' by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock.
'Music gets me excited,' she says. 'My characters come out of the songs I choose.'
For its run at The Old Church, 'Chocolate Confessions' will be accompanied by an edible sideshow called 'A Springtime Chocolate Celebration.' Papa Haydn, Moonstruck Chocolatiers, La Provence Bakery and other vendors of the decadent and divine will be on hand.