Starting Here, Starting Now – Winning

I saw the original 1976 production of this piece, a collection of Richard Maltby, Jr./David Shire songs originally written for revues, as stand-alone numbers, and from their musicals to date. Way back then, it seemed to epitomize the feelings of young singles in New York. My memory, enhanced by having bought (and still occasionally playing) the recording, made me anticipate The York’s revival with pleasure. I’m pleased to say material, despite, or perhaps because of its universality and innocence, holds up just fine.

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Bobby Conte Thornton, Charlotte Maltby

Visually appealing direction (Richard Maltby, Jr. and Kurt Stamm) ranges from one vocalist’s awareness of another at apt moments to charming physical interaction to a little light hoofing. “I’m a Little Bit Off” sings Charlotte Maltby, shying across the stage, away from Bobby Conte Thornton. When his arms encircle her from behind, a surprised and delighted “ah” prefaces the next lyric. That single syllable of freshness and credibility shines. At the end, the performer literally leaps into Thornton’s arms, feet around his torso.

“I Think I May Want to Remember Today” finds Maltby and Krystal Joy Brown writing in their diaries. The lyric actually sounds naïve and besotted, phrasing and all. “We Can Talk to Each Other” may look like a vocal duet, but it’s Thornton’s Solo. Full of himself, the character doesn’t let his partner get a word in edgewise. Both artists play the scene well. Thornton is cheerfully oblivious and when Maltby tries to speak, it’s clear that full sentences are aborted, not just partial phrases. Her frustration dawns as we watch. His last shhhh is simply perfect.

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Bobby Conte Thornton, Krystal Joy Brown

“Just Across the River”…a big white nuptial world is waiting for me, Maltby and Brown begin. When Thornton steps forward for his part, the ladies stand aside providing backup harmony, replete with nifty, synchronized snaps and steps. To have a man aspire towards wedded bliss is frankly unusual, but Thornton sells sincere. During “I Don’t Remember Christmas,” we get every iota of pathos in the man’s effort to convince himself he’s moved past “her” despite constant reminders. An ebullient “I Hear Bells” spotlights Thornton’s engaging tenor. The ladies again provide pretty backup.

Brown’s rendition of the clever, otherwise sympathetic “Crossword Puzzle” is aggressive, hostile. Admittedly accustomed to hearing this song as it should be performed with wistful self-recrimination, I have trouble with the number. The artist has a powerful voice which selectively utilized would serve her well, but forces most of the songs she contributes.

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Charlotte Maltby, Bobby Conte Thornton, Krystal Joy Brown

“Autumn,” The first song Maltby, Jr. and Shire wrote at Yale, is a lovely, melancholy ballad. Maltby renders it hands in her lap, with winning gravitas and vocal control that holds whether soft or emphatic. (A skill) The last soprano note is feather light.

Among cutely staged company numbers is “I Don’t Believe It,” which finds a single at one side of a party cynically doubting the bliss of a couple across the room and “One Step” which employs canes, top hats, and genial choreography. Again, moments buoy: couples freezing with exaggerated grins as they are critically commented upon, Maltby being reluctantly pushed off her stool to begin (life), and each vocalist’s highly expressive “wow!” after successfully getting into the swim of things is charming. Note to cast: don’t try to kick so high. This caveat is especially intended for Brown who literally wears a blouse with a slit nearly to her waist as a dress in Act II which is vastly inappropriate.

Charlotte Maltby, Bobby Conte Thornton, Krystal Joy Brown

Except for Maltby’s “Watching the Big Parade Go By” which nicely proffers the same idea as Sondheim’s “Someone in a Tree” (I am an integral part of the event), but arrives without sufficient exuberance and Thornton’s “Hey There Fans” and “Flair” which are somewhat over the top, these performers have a solid handle on lyrical expression. Both can act, both have excellent voices. Both will, if the gods are watching, have blooming careers.

In this revue, the multifaceted Maltby and Shire excel at happy songs and anthems to self discovery. It wouldn’t hurt to switch out and add a ballad or two for balance. Be that as it may, this production of Starting Here, Starting Now is an “up” evening of tuneful, well articulated songs performed by a cast that brings freshness and enthusiasm to the material. You may, as I did, leave humming.

Kevin Stites’ Musical Direction/Piano is top notch.

Photos by Ben Strothmann
Opening: Charlotte Maltby, Bobby Conte Thornton, Krystal Joy Brown

The York Theater’s Musicals in Mufti presents
Starting Here, Starting Now
Music by David Shire
Lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Musical Staging by Kurt Stamm
Music Director/Piano-Kevin Stites; Bass-Danny Weller
With Krystal Joy Brown, Charlotte Maltby, and Bobby Conte Thornton
Though March 20, 2016
The York Theater  
619 Lexington Avenue-Entrance on 54th Street

About Alix Cohen (900 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.