"Dr. Sex," the new Off-Broadway musical about the life of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, could not be more different from "Kinsey," last year's film on the same subject that starred Liam Neeson.
In contrast to that subtle, fascinating work, "Dr. Sex" is everything you'd expect from a musical of its title: a dumb, flashy cartoon that exploits its central subject in a failed attempt to titillate.
Common denominators don't get much lower than this. Sex jokes, gay jokes and orgy jokes fly by too fast to yawn at each one. If the writers are going for parody, it certainly doesn't work; making fun of sex research is much less interesting than seriously exploring how Kinsey broke through taboos and revolutionized our thinking about sexuality.
As Kinsey, Brian Noonan's face is perpetually in ham position, and he announces his lines in a voice that would sound condescending even if he were reading to 4-year-olds. The rest of the cast doesn't fare much better.
The show wants to turn you on, starting from the cell-phone announcement that promises a "naughty good time" and makes the requisite "vibrate" joke. But the acting, dialogue and dancing are too by-the-numbers for anything to heat up.
Although original director Pamela Hunt left the show and an uncredited Ethan McSweeny came in to consult, the production is coherent. Everything is as crisp, clean and cheery as a kindergarten assembly. Larry Bortniker's songs are serviceable - OK tunes and precise lyrics, but nothing remotely memorable.
Some audience members were laughing and whooping throughout. But most people would be better off saving the $70 and renting "Kinsey" instead.
DR. SEX. Production supervised by Greg Hirsch. Peter Norton Space, 555 W. 42nd St. Tickets $70. Call 212-279-4200 or visit www.ticketcentral.com.