Those of you familiar with Maury Yeston only from Grand Hotel and/or Nine will find this revue surprising. Featuring selections out of five other shows, including four songs never heard in public, some free-standing, and one written for the piece, the entertaining compilation offers a variety of influence and attitude.
As symbiotically directed by Gerard Alessandrini and choreographed by Gerry McIntyre, Benjamin Eakeley, Jovan E’Sean, Alex Getlin, Justin Keyes, and Mamie Parris are infectiously vivacious. The evening is fluid, deftly staged (even when still) and buoyantly danced. Rarely does one see choreography at this high a level in the York’s excellent, but necessarily add-water-and-stir, productions.
“Anything Can Happen in The Theater” addresses artists’ commitment-no-matter-what in wry, bulls’ eye lyrics. The young company shows frustrated recognition. A richly melodic “Love Can’t Happen” from Grand Hotel (Benjamin Eakeley) feels like standing under a waterfall of emotion. That only a piano can accomplish this is a testament to the composer.
Jovan E’Sean’s “I Had a Dream About You” (December Song) arrives nicely underplayed; the performer’s “Mississippi Moon” aptly laconic.
Justin Keyes, a standout tonight, offers a wonderfully wry, double-entendre “Salt n’ Pepper” partnered by a wheeled cart. Keyes can sing, dance, and deliver nuanced comedy. Fun! (Back-up: Jovan E’Sean, Alex Getlin, Manie Parris.)
As sung by Benjamin Eakeley, the beautiful “New Words” is palpably warm. I only wish it addressed an invisible boy instead of diluting the effect by repeatedly changing focus. Look up there, high above us/In a sky of blackest silk/See how round, like a cookie/See how white, as white as milk/Call it the moon, my son/Say moon… Eakeley’s rendition of “Guido’s Song” (Nine) adroitly manages the stop/start lyric and rampant egotism. Me! Me! Me! he sings, thumping his chest.
The sexy “Call From the Vatican” (Nine), replete with vamping atop the piano and toying with an extra long phone cord, is executed by Mamie Parris who embraces the mood, but could be more into fantasy and less aware of the audience. Nine’s “Cinema Italiano” (Mamie Parris with Justin Keyes, Jovan E’Sean) is as nimbly specific as this evening’s opening number. Yeston clearly did research. A hoot.
“I Don’t Want to Rock n’ Roll” is droll by virtue of gold-embroidered vests, waistcoats (Jovan E’Sean/ Justin Keyes) and a buttressed skirt (Alex Getlin), placing the song firmly in another century. Deadpan expressions and clever choreography exult…Nothing could be fina than a lyric by Goethe or Heine…
Alex Getlin, another standout, inhabits lyrics creating presence to which we pay attention. Though a rockabilly “Danglin” is not the writer’s best, Getlin gives it poise and purpose. Her vibrato-driven “Strange” is distressed, haunted. (The thespian also handles comedy well.)
Both effervescent, “Mardi Gras Ball” (Queen of Basin Street), is a better tune than lyric showcase, while tongue-in-cheek “Feet” (In the Beginning) excels at both. Staging is splendid. “Home” (Phantom) emerges an anthem for vocalists. We close with a partly a capella “Godspeed, Titanic” (Titantic) leaving small waves in its wake. Vocal arrangements throughout are skillful and appealing.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Jovan E’Sean, Alex Getlin, Benjamin Eakeley, Mamie Parris, Justin Keyes
The York Theatre Company presents
Anything Can Happen in The Theater-The Musical World of Maury Yeston
Conceived and Directed by Gerard Alessandrini
Choreography- Gerry McIntyre
Music Direction/Piano- Greg Jarrett
Through December 29, 2019
St. Peter’s Church-Entrance on 54th Street East of Lexington Avenue