Someone has beaten you, dear world/Someone has blinded you, dear world/And those who love you defiantly insist/That you get off that critical list…
Another uncomfortably timely offering from Musicals in Mufti, 1969’s Dear World, is a so-called fantasy about a group of corporate heads, all called “Mr. President” who, having nothing better to do with excessive undirected funds, back a Prospector (Gordon Stanley- resonant vocals) in a plan to excavate Paris for oil they believe lies beneath the city. (The original piece was written in 1943. Capitalization required here? $50,000.) Greed, as Gordon Gekko (Wall Street) later declared, is good. Pollution is not an issue. People are expendable.
Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Peter Land, Gordon Stanley, J. Bernard Calloway, Stephen Mo Hanan
Said plot is cleverly thwarted by Countess Aurelia, The Madwoman of Chaillot (Tyne Daly), whose harmless delusions, sense of justice, and innate wisdom aid, rather than hamper, dealing with the threat. Aurelia conscripts friends and neighbors: Madame Constance (Alison Fraser imbues her character with feminine fragility), Madame Gabrielle (Ann Harada, a bit chirpy but fine with her invisible dog), the local café waitress Nina (Erika Hemmingsen, engaging innocence, lovely voice), Julian, at first The Presidents’ secretary, then part of the opposition (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, earnest, winning), The Sergeant (Dewey Caddell), The Waiter (Ben Cherry), and The Sewerman (Lenny Wolpe, always a pleasure to watch, here marvelous). “Did you get my lily,” the Countess asks. “It should have floated by around 11:30.”
Ann Harada, Tyne Daly, Alison Fraser
The Presidents – “Have a Little Pity on the Rich” – are Peter Land (wry and effective), J. Bernard Calloway, and Stephen Mo Hanan. Oh, and there’s a village Mute – Kristopher Thompson-Bolden whose mime is poorly executed.
Everything revolves around gently demented Countess Aurelia who sees her “Dear World” through rose-colored glasses. The lady’s absent-minded reasoning has charm and its own iconoclastic logic. Changing a man’s name is easier than changing men. A lost feather boa turns up on the hat stand near the hall mirror, unnoticed because “I never look in the mirror on account of the old woman in the glass.” Both musical and chronicle rests on her shoulders. A secondary storyline unites Nina and Julian, the pure of heart with the defector.
Tyne Daly, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Erika Hemmingsen
Tyne Daly is dotty, tender, stubborn, and, in context, believable. She’s chosen to deliver her lines in short, nervous, blinking phrases adding to personality. Moments of deep recollection are emphatically touching. Daly’s voice is open-throated and fine.
Of course, things work out fine, at least in so far as we can see. How many shows can you call to mind where murder is benign? Arsenic and Old Lace, perhaps. Any other? Still we’re unequivocally on the side of those angels. Were current problems as easily solved, who knows what boundaries might be crossed?
Kristopher Thompson-Bolden, Erika Henningsen, Ben Cherry, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Lenny Wolpe, Tyne Daly
Director Michael Montel might have a little more fun with his characters.
Christopher McGovern (Music Director/Piano) and Louis Tucci (Bass/Accordion ) provide splendid arrangements and musicianship.
Apparently costuming themselves from their own closets, the actors look sufficiently like their characters to carry the mood. Countess Constance and Countess Gabrielle’s headwear is perfection.
Not one of Jerry Herman’s best efforts, but still rather charming in its entirety.
Photos by Ben Strothmann
Opening: Tyne Daly
The York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti presents
Music & Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Jerome Lawrence And Robert E. Lee
Based on The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux
As adapted by Maurice Valency
New Version by David Thompson
Through March 5, 2017
The York Theatre in St. Peter’s Church
619 Lexington Avenue
Next on the main stage new musical Marry Harry staring April 25, 2017