This central role is played by the lovely Ellie Mooney, whose delicate gestures convey character while her singing voice imitates with uncanny accuracy the voices on L.V.'s records - Streisand, Garland, Patsy Cline, Rosemary Clooney, Helen Reddy, Petula Clark - and she can shift from one to another in mid-measure.
Mari's new boyfriend Ray (Anthony Lawton in a courageous performance, shifting between cruel and desperate) is an "artiste agent," complete with toupee and many rings. When he hears L.V. singing to herself upstairs, he is convinced that she is the act that will make his fortune.
But L.V. is painfully shy and doesn't have the temperament to be a headliner at the sleazy nightclub run by Mr. Boo (the hilarious David Bardeen). The next-door neighbor (Melissa Joy Hart) has far more compassion for L.V. than her mother does. A quiet telephone repairman (Jered McLenigan) provides a little light in this dark world, helping Little Voice find her own voice in a sweet duet that miraculously avoids sentimentality.
I am repeatedly amazed at the way set designers can maximize the small Independence Studio stage. Andrew Thompson gives us a whole house, upstairs and down, and costume designer Katherine Fritz provide lots of tacky clothes.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice
At Walnut Street Theater's Independence Studio on 3, Ninth and Walnut Streets, through April 13.
Tickets: $30. Information: www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or 215-574-3550.