By Dee Jae Cox
As President Abraham Lincoln once said, “It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” And that’s the promise of the upcoming new Comedy, Aces, a world premier written by Davis Gordon Gilbert. Opening at Oscars on Thursday March 9th and running Thursday’s and Fridays through March 31st.
“Aces,” is based on the true story of five consecutive (1985-89,) real-life Miss America winners from Texas, who were known as the ‘Texas Aces.’ The play is a fictionalized account of a TV reunion between these beauty queens who tell their stories in front of a live audience. Heartfelt conversations and raw comedic honesty, (with the help of some liquid courage offered backstage,) have these former glam queens sharing their virtues and their vices and showing why they are about so much more than hair and makeup.
This comedy with heart, features some of the deserts most accomplished and talented actresses portraying the Miss America winners, 30+ years after winning their crowns.
Denise Strand as Kim Tomes, Miss USA 1977, Dana Adkins as Laura Martinez Harring, Miss USA 1985, Kitty Murray as Christy Fichtner, Miss USA 1986, Yo Younger as Michelle Royer, Miss USA 1987, Denise Carey as Courtney Gibbs, Miss USA 1988 and Christine Tringali Nunes as Gretchen Polhemus, Miss USA 1989.
Younger, a multi-award-winning performer, is one of the most sought-after actresses in the Coachella Valley and has performed in roles from August Osage County to the Miracle Worker. She says that she loves Royer’s “determined, sassy style and soft heart,” though admits that she doesn’t always think before she speaks.
Carey, first appeared in musical theatre by way of Palm Canyon Theatre’s production of Young Frankenstein, calling it a “Baptism by fire,” but has since then been hooked. She indicates that Gibbs, is the most mysterious to her of all of the pageant winners, but loves that she is so well spoken and quick thinking.
After 20 years away from the stage, Adkins, and was recruited into desert theatre by former Desert Rose Playhouse artistic Director, Robbie Wayne who cast her in the 2019 production of ‘Ruthless,” for which she won the Desert Theatre League Award for best Supporting Actress. In 2022 she was cast in the World Premiere musical, Mid-Century Moderns, and once more won a Best Supporting Actress from DTL. Adkins, was at one time 1st Runner-up to Miss California. And produced The Miss California USA and Miss Alaska USA pageants.
Tringali-Nunes, who has also become a stand-out in Coachella Valley theatre, performed alongside Adkins in Ruthless and Mid-Century Moderns and began her work on desert stages in Desert TheatreWork’s production of Next to Normal, landing her a best actress in a musical nomination by the Desert Theater League.
Kitty Murray, a former Las Vegas showroom performer with a high stakes successful career opening for major talents, as well as doing films and commercials, appears in this show as Christy Fichtner, whose runner-up was the Academy Award winning actress, Halle Berry. Murray, is not only performing in the show, but is also the Producer through her company, Kitlyn Productions. She admits that acting and performing in the show is a lot of work, but no doubt her previous experience producing USO shows internationally has prepared her for the task. Her history of a wonderful working relationship with Oscar’s owner, Dan Gore, made this hotspot the perfect venue for the show.
Aces, is directed by one of the deserts most acclaimed residents, Judith Chapman. Chapman, who has enjoyed a highly successful career in film and daytime dramas, most notably in the role of Gloria Barwell, in The Young and the Restless, has also achieved star status in the Coachella Valley due to her award-winning acting and directing accomplishments on desert stages. Chapman, stated, “If I am going to commit to a project, it has to touch my soul. And this outrageous tale of 5 Texas Beauty Queens who did the impossible, touched my Soul and Funny Bone. And then the fictitious part of their reunion 35 years later kept me laughing during rehearsals as this Marvelous ENSEMBLE maneuvered through Fact and Fantasy.”
This mega talented ensemble originally came together for a reading of the script through an invitation from former Desert Rose Playhouse, Artistic Director, Robbie Wayne. Playwright, Davis Gordon Gilbert, was in attendance and loved the cast’s chemistry and energy. He asked them if they would be interested in doing a full production.
Denise Cary, stated, that she believed “Davis portrayed these women in an honest and positive way. He has always been a fan of pageants, and is very knowledgeable. He cares about these women and what they’ve accomplished.” She also stated that, “the cast and the director, have striven to honor these women, but also realize this scenario is a farce meant to entertain. There are complex human beings behind these stunning women, that worked incredibly hard to achieve success. That can be easy to forget when they appear so flawless. Each woman has her own distinct identity.”
This show features a dream team of talented women, opening just in time to kick off a celebration of Women’s History Month. In addition to the cast, director and producer being female, Stage Manager Stella Evans, and Lighting Designer Mariah Pryor, round out this incredible group.
Aces, runs at 7 p.m. every Thursday and Friday between March 9 and March 31, 2023. Oscars, is located at 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, Ca
For ticket information please visit: oscarspalmsprings.com/product/03302023/
Dee Jae Cox, is a playwright, director and producer.
Cofounder and Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. www.losangeleswomenstheatreproject.org
And Co-Creator of the Palm Springs Theatre Go-To-Guide,