Theater Review: Respect is terrific at TBPAC

Respect: A Musical Journey of Women (****1/2) is a lot of fun. Thanks to four terrific performers — Alison Burns, Ashley Blake Fisher, Nadeen Holloway and Heather Krueger — it's a delightful tour of the songs women have been singing for the last century or so, and a welcome reminder that there's nothing innocent about Top 40 music, nothing that's not touched by history and social mores.

Created by Vanderbilt professor Dr. Dorothy Marcic, Respect is a funny, rousing and occasionally thrilling medley of about 60 songs from 1901 to the present, featuring hits by everyone from Billie Holiday to Mariah Carey, and favoring melody over meaning so completely that occasionally its sociological intentions get lost in foot-stomping rhythm. Not that it fails as political theater: you couldn't ask for a more entertaining look at American women's history during a period that has seen progress beyond most turn-of-the-century feminists' dreams.

So come one and all: teenagers who don't know the long struggle behind gender equality, baby boomers who hadn't realized just how political their radio days had been, and grandparents who simply want another listen to their whole lives' soundtrack. And don't just bring your female friends: men need to know this stuff too. If we're cognizant of each other's past, we'll be much less likely to fall back into obsolete patterns.