Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
From the moment one enters the intimate Lion Theatre and sees Joshua Warner’s irreverent Set: the giant, clip art, bulb-lit arrow and graphic pointing hand, a broken arc of stage bulbs, black and white cardboard cut-outs signifying Grecian columns and familiar blue and white Greek coffee shop signage, we know this is no traditional production of The Boys From Syracuse.
Director Jonathan Cerullo’s limber imagination shapes the tuneful 1938 show into a vaudeville meets musical romp cast entirely – but for one-of men! Just as during the Depression, we need what producer Mel Miller calls “a knock-about comedy.” With songs like “Falling In Love With Love,” “This Can’t Be Love,” and “Sing For Your Supper,” to carry one along, the experience is thoroughly enjoyable.
Matt Dengler and Ian Fairlee (Ephesus)
Successfully executing this kind of daft, precision humor in a matter of a mere three weeks is something of a marvel. Ethan Steimel’s scrupulous Lighting Design aides and abets freeze-frames and a waka-waka Harpo horn which punctuates ba-dump-dump moments – not one held too long. The small stage is artfully occupied from the band on a balcony, up and down various ladders, and onto the theater floor by a predominantly talented and entirely game company. Let the shindig begin!
The story, as you may recall, involves two sets of twins separated during a shipwreck seven years ago and mishaps that occur when they all unknowingly find themselves in the city of Ephesus. At the top of the show, the local Duke (Shavey Brown) condemns Aegeon (Jody Cook) to death for being a citizen of Syracuse unable to pay a tithe. Aegeon is father to one set of twins (the other set is their servants). He’s searching for his sons.
Matthew Fairlee and Josh Walden (Syracuse)
Twin Antipholus of Ephesus (Matt Dengler) long ago gave his parents up for dead. He and servant Dromio of Ephesus (Ian Fairlee) live well. The master has a loving wife – Adriana (Jonathan Hoover), and willing mistress, head courtesan of a neighboring brothel (Sam Given). Dromio is married to kitchen maid Luce (Adam B. Shapiro – an inspired piece of physical casting albeit with apparent talent quotient.) Also in their household is Adriana’s sister Luciana (Darrell Marris Jr.).
When Antipholus of Syracuse (Josh Walden) and his servant Dromio-of Syracuse (Matthew Fairlee – yes, the actor servants are real twins) arrive in town, the two are immediately mistaken for their doppelgangers by a tailor, a merchant, the head courtesan (Sam Given), local constabulary, and Antipholus of Ephesus’s household. The hapless Syracusians are even pressed into spending a night with their brothers’ spouses. Realizing it’s unsafe to remain, the visitors plan to return home when Antipholus of Syracuse falls in love with Luciana. Got all that? Believe me, it’s clear as you’re watching.
Matt Dengler, Jose Luaces, Shavey Brown holding Ian Fairlee
Both Antipholuses – Matt Dengler (Ephesus) and Josh Walden (Syracuse) are triple threats. They act, sing, and dance well. Both are adroit with comic timing. Whether planned or not Dengler’s more naturalistic acting beside Walden’s somewhat more broad, music hall delivery works wonderfully further distinguishing the two. (Walden could easily play Jolson.) Thespians worth following.
The Dromios, Ian Fairlee (Ephesus) and his brother Matthew Fairlee (Syracuse) are funny, credibly innocent, and physically adept.
Adam B. Shapiro is marvelous as Luce. The performer stakes claim to the stage without going over a prescribed top (mugging is skilled). A big man, he’s light on his feet, deft with a look, playful; in context – believable. And he sings!
Jonathan Hoover makes the most of Adriana with female bearing, movement, and reactions that serve the production admirably. Darrell Marris Jr.’s Luciana is palpably wide-eyed, soft, and besotted. Sam Given’s sinuous Courtesan is aptly sassy but pushes it to abrasive.
Creative Directorial moments include in part: the tale of the shipwreck told in puppet cut-outs, shadowplay, searching the audience for “an honest man,” an unexpected, hat and cane soft shoe, spoken sound effects, clever acknowledgement of lyrics ahead of their time, tongue-in-cheek, synchronized movement, well engineered fisticuffs… Jonathan Cerullo keeps his cast taut and quick, almost none of them self conscious about farce. Staging is aesthetically appealing and fluid, choreography fun; vivacious high spirits sustained.
A scene where courtesans show their “wares” seems less well thought out and the third reprise of a wonderful, harmonized rendition of “Sing For Your Supper” might ditch its blazers and fedoras.
Adam B. Shapiro, Darrell Marris Jr., Jonathan Hoover
Hope Salvan’s Costumes intentionally have that rummaged from trunks in an attic aspect. Antipholuses and Dromios look swell. Luce resembles a splendid, lavender-wigged Raggedy Anne. I can’t say I understand sporting jeans underneath dresses and courtesan drapery. Use footless leggings if you need cover. Being tentative with sexual designation works against the preposterous credence of the production.
Also featuring: Joseph Scott Holt, Jose Luaces, Elliott Mattox.
The production’s token and completely extraneous female, actress Madeline Hamlet, wears a “The Future Is Female” t-shirt and mostly speaks in irritating squeaks. I would encourage the role dropped in any revivals.
The Band: Cupid & The Arrows– Evan Rees—Conductor/keyboard, Michael Bagby-second keyboard, Matt Watson-drums/percussion, Joseph Scott Holt- cello/violin/percussion
This is Musicals Tonight’s 98th revival of an American musical. It deserves our support.
Photos by Milliron Studios Photography Opening: The Company
Musicals Tonight! presents An (almost) ALL MALE production of The Boys From Syracuse Adapted from Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors Libretto- George Abbot Music- Richard Rodgers; Lyrics- Lorenz Hart Directed by Jonathan Cerullo Music Director/Conductor- Evan Rees The Lion Theatre 410 West 42nd Street Through February 26, 2018 NEXT: Anything Goes- February 27-March 11, 2018
Musicals Tonight’s 95th revival, Du Barry Was a Lady, is its 14th Cole Porter Show. The 1940 meringue-weight musical ran 408 performances starring Ethel Merman, Bert Lahr and Betty Grable in her Broadway Debut. There are three or four familiar songs including “Friendship,” later used in Call Me Madam and “Well, Did You Evah!?” that would highlight High Society. The book is sheer ba-dump-dump pastiche.
Peyton Crim and Jennifer Evans; Jennifer Evans and Payton Crim
Sweet, rather dull Louis Blore (Peyton Crim), formerly a men’s room attendant, has won a sweepstakes of $75,000. Sizable rock in hand, he proposes to club vocalist, May (Jennifer Evans). She, in turn, is fixed on handsome columnist Alex (Patrick Oliver Jones- curiously unromantic) whose sister Alice (Katherine McLaughlin) works with her. Other nightspot denizens include Alice’s beau Harry (Tim McGarrigal), club owner Bill Kelly (able, rubber-faced Richard Rowan), and mercenary Cigarette/ Hatcheck girl Vi (Lily Tobin, overtly channeling Ruth Gordon through Betty Boop.)
Tim McGarrigle and Katherine McLaughlin
Direct from the clink, new employee Charlie (Ernie Pruneda), mistakenly slips Louis a Micky Finn (drop-out drug) intended to keep Alex from a date with May. Having just seen the Red Skelton/Lucille Ball film Du Barry Was a Lady, Louis dreams he’s King Louis XV. Everyone shows up in period garb.
May becomes Du Barry holding off her Sire with faux Mae West tone: “I know you want me. I can read you like a book, but you don’t have to use the Braille System.” Meanwhile she’s hot for and hiding a period version of Alex. Farce ensues. Louis develops a clearer take on the life to which he awakens after Versailles, loses or gives away almost all his windfall, yet remains upbeat. Of course.
Patrick Oliver Jones and Jennifer Evans
A contemporary production of Du Barry depends on its director and performers to make froth sit well. In order to bring this off, actors must “play it straight” i.e. appear to an audience as if characters know no better and speak in natural syntax. While a little wink/wink mugging may fly, this particular version, particularly its foray into ersatz history, is self consciously broad to the extreme. (Director Evan Pappas)
Richard Rowan and Payton Crim
Still, the piece has its rewards. Peyton Crim makes a swell Louis, with royal embodiment mostly skirting over-the-top rather than toppling. He’s credibly big-hearted, obtusely hopeful, deftly clumsy, and fluently delivers Porter’s iconoclastic phrasing. Tim McGarrigle (Harry) shows agreeable aspects of Donald O’Connor and Peter Sellers. His nifty, exaggerated French accent echoes Lumiere, the animated candlestick of Beauty and The Beast.
Both Jennifer Evans and Katherine McLaughlin have good voices and dance well. Both, however, overplay. Evans looks to the audience rather than interacting with fellow characters, doing best in duets with Crim who seems to focus his partner with naturalness. McLaughlin, alas, is additionally saddled with the ugly handicap of chewing gum?!
Evan Pappas’s Choreography is lively and cute with subtle awareness of limited space. Use of that space, especially employing back-up girls/ boys, is visually appealing.
Vocal Arrangements are very fine.
A painted backdrop and rose trellis that flips to become a bed, work to add color and fantasy.
Long legged Chorus Girls: Elizabeth Flanagan, Ashley Griffin, Tina Scariano
Chorus Boys: Mark Bacon, Jamil Chokachi, Colin Israel, Evan Maltby
The venerable Musicals Tonight has completed another season, sharing productions of shows otherwise rarely (if at all) available to audiences. It continues to provide a worthy and appreciated platform.
Photos: Opening – The Company
Musicals Tonight! presents Du Barry Was a Lady
Music & Lyrics by Cole Porter
Libretto by Herbert Fields & BG DeSylva
Directed & Choreographed by Evan Pappas
Music Director/Vocal Arranger- James Stenborg
Through April 9, 2017 The Lion Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
Barry Day O.B.E., the Artistic Director of The Noel Coward Foundation and editor of this musical, calls it a “love song to London – a sort of post-war sequel to This Happy Breed in which Londoners pick up the pieces of their lives and cheerfully put them back together, as if nothing had happened.” The piece is an uncomplicated love story reflecting traditional values, pluck, and optimism. While some songs are pleasant though unmemorable, the musical also features iconic numbers Coward later used elsewhere including “Sail Away,” “Chase Me Charlie,” “I Like America,” and “London Pride.”
Marci Reid, Ian Mcdonald
We open and close in the Covent Garden market with vendors hawking their wares in song. Capper (Ian Mcdonald in a yeoman-like job) and Barmey Flo (Marci Reid who’s fine here, but seems anything but barmey) greet Pinkie (Katrina Michaels), whose view on the beautiful weather indicates Spring is in the air. It’s the young woman’s day off. When well dressed Julian (a credible Conor M. Hamlin with a nice voice) buys roses “a lot of them” to celebrate his first week of marriage, Pinkie grows starry-eyed. As if on cue, Harry (Johnny Wilson) appears. The sailor wastes no time. “Who are you, cause you’re very pretty and I’ve got 24 hours leave.”
Katrina Michaels, Johnny Wilson
Despite his being cheeky, Pinkie perceives the stranger is sweet and honest (as do we in appreciation of Wilson’s naturalistic acting) and takes him home to meet the folks before spending the day. Dad Charlie (Tom Gamblin who makes a warm, believable parent) and mom Fanny (Deb Cardona) understand “There’s Something About a Sailor”…nobody’s able to define…The duo sing well together, the number is deftly directed. (Later, we see Fanny, an ex-actress, perform a flirty “Chase Me Charlie,” one of the music hall songs in her repertoire. Cardona is charming.)
Also in the family are brother Alfie (Josh Bardier whose rubber face and long legs remind one of Jules Munchin) and sister Doreen (Kaitlyn Frotton, a graceful dancer, good actress and, I suspect from what little we heard, a fine singer).
Kaitlyn Frotton, Tom Gamblin, Den Cardona, Josh Bardier
Pinkie and Harry begin at Buckingham Palace. “Three Theatrical Dames”: Tom Gamblin, Ian Mcdonald, Marcia Reid (note two bearded men and one woman) are just leaving. This song can be very funny. It misses the mark here.
The couple then encounter Julian (in his military uniform – there to be decorated by the Queen) and his new wife, Linda (Oakley Boycott who appears upper class and sings with warmth). Julian recognizes Pinkie from the flower stand. Feeling happy and open, the well healed newlyweds invite the youngsters to a posh party that night. Pinkie can’t wait, but Harry is sure they’ll be out of place. An argument ensues. They part.
Oakley Boycott, Conor M. Hamill
Act II is a bit overstuffed with songs, but entertaining. You can guess the rest of the story. The lovers reunite and go to the party, Pinkie glorying in one of her mom’s old costumes. They pledge to one another. Finale.
Katrina Michaels makes a fine Pinkie, bright, cute (not cutsie) and self-reliant. The actress manages just the right tenor in this clearly period piece.
Tonight’s find is Johnny Wilson (Harry). The attractive Wilson is thoroughly engaging. He moves and sings with skill and an earnest ardor that carries the story ingenuously forward.
Director/Choreographer Mindy Cooper uses the theater well, aisles and balcony inclusive, creates attractive tableaus (clearly a signature), and affects a light, stylized (wink, wink) touch befitting the piece. Her characters could be more unique, but the show is not harmed.
Tristan Raines does an excellent job with period costumes that suit each character and excels at an eventual fancy dress party.
Photos by Michael Portantiere
Opening: Conor M. Hamill, Oakley Boycott, Johnny Wilson, Katrina Michaels
Musicals Tonight presents The World Premiere of Hoi Polloi Libretto, Music, & Lyrics by Noel Coward Edited by Barry Day O.B.E. Directed and Choreographed by Mindy Cooper Music Director/Vocal Arranger David B. Bishop Through November 13, 2016 Musicals Tonight! NEXT: Louisiana Purchase-music and lyrics by Irving Berlin; book by Morrie Ryskind February 28-March 12 2017
The plot of George and Ira Gershwins’ 1927 show Funny Face bears no resemblance to that of the subsequent Fred Astaire/Audrey Hepburn film which centered on the sophisticated world of fashion. Originally, the musical was (and is) a romantic comedy featuring: Jimmy Reeve ( Patrick Graver) a young, wealthy man and his three attractive wards – Frankie (Jessica Ernest)- a ditsy blonde who congenitally lies, June (Whitney Winfield)- a sweet young woman impatiently waiting for Jimmy to propose, and Dora (Caitlin Wilayto), a comedienne type aggressively searching for a husband, the guardian’s best friend- Dugsie (Blake Spellacy), Peter (Seth Danner)- a handsome aviator who get caught up in misrepresented robbery, two bungling burglars (Herbert-Edward Tolve and Chester- Bill Bateman), impersonations, and a company of dancing/singing flappers with jaunty swains.
Caitlin Wilayto, Patrick Graver, Whitney Winfield
Producer and Creator of Musicals Tonight, Mel Miller, and his cohorts have put together a buoyant version of the piece helmed by Director/Choreographer Casey Colgan of whom I am now a serious fan. Having been loyal to this organization for a great many years, I’ve watched valuable presentations of rarely revived musicals get better and better, despite short rehearsal time, minimal trappings, and shoestring budget. With this production, the organization has reached a new high.
Opening at Jimmy Reeve’s birthday party, we see a line of long-limbed chorus girls who not only dance up a storm but kick like Rockettes. Watch that fringe fly! The boys are equally swell, not only partnering, but at one point ebulliently executing acrobatics. We’re treated to Charlestons, Waltzes, and Tap. Everyone is cute without being saccharine. This is a cohesive company accurately representing a period show while having an infectiously good time.
Seth Danner, Blake Spellacy
Songs like “Funny Face,” “S’Wonderful,” “He Loves and She Loves,” and “How Long Has This Been Going On?” are just a of few of the iconic numbers here. Vocal arrangement is excellent. Choreography is lively, attractive, fresh and perfectly suited to the small stage. I wish I could tell you to immediately secure tickets, but unfortunately I saw the piece at the end of its run. This review is partly for the record, partly to acknowledge fine work, and partly to make you more aware of the blooming Musicals Tonight.
Caitlin Wilayto and Blake Spellacy; Jessica Ernest and Seth Danner
Patrick Graver and Jessica Ernest as Jimmy and Frankie are dancers in song and dance roles. Both entertain tilting towards the former at which they’re thoroughly appealing. Ernest emulates her dizzy character with modest brio.
Caitlin Wilayto (Dora) and Whitney Winfield (June) are well cast. Wilayto has good comic timing and manages to be engagingly quirky without veering towards trite. Winfield has a superb voice and genuine presence.
Whitney Winfield and Patrick Graver
Seth Danner (Peter) and Blake Spellacy (Dugsie) are both skilled male ingénues. They sing, dance, and relate with natural charm. Spellacy reminds me of song and dance man Gene Nelson (check out such as the film Oklahoma!) – a high compliment.
As Maladroit burglars, Edward Tolve and Bill Bateman – the former especially – are amusing in their roles and excel at “The Babbitt and The Bromide.” Though the nifty vaudeville number has nothing to do with this story, it’s a hoot. Relevance might be easily supplied by a line or two of dialogue indicating the burglars are hiding from cops by substituting for the resort’s headliners.
Also featuring Doug Jabara who comically does what he can as the Sergeant.
Costumes. Wigs, and footwear, apparently acquired and ostensibly overseen by Casey Colgan are flat out terrific, especially the colorful, plaid suits for The Babbitt and The Bromide which it pains me not to be able to show you.
Bravo Resident Casting Director Holly Buczek.
Photos by Michael Portantiere
Opening Left to Right: Christian Brown, Kacie Burns, Caleb Dicke, Giulia Dunes, Kyle White, Briana Fallon, Parker Krug, Andrea Weinzierl
Musicals Tonight presents Funny Face
Music by George Gershwin; Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Libretto- Fred Thompson & Paul Gerard Smith
Directed and Choreographed by Casey Colgan
Music Director/Vocal Arranger-James Stenborg
The Lion Theatre
410 West 42nd Street NEXT: The world premiere of Hoi Polloi by Noel Coward-November 1-13 Musicals Tonight website
Barry Day OBE, Literary Advisor to The Noel Coward Society, Author, and Truffle Hound for all things Coward, serendipitously got involved with the estate when he was an advertising executive. Vacationing with his wife on the north coast of Jamaica, he suggested they visit Firefly, Coward’s mountain top retreat. He expected to see a palatial estate. Instead, Day found a dilapidated bungalow, much of it open to the elements.
“It was a shambles, original books damp and rotting, the piano in terrible shape…” The so-called caretaker, Miguel, offered anything for sale. “I was appalled.” Back in London, Day contacted the estate. The legatee was Coward’s former partner, Graham Payn. “I wrote, How the hell can you let this happen?! This is one of the greatest Englishmen in the arts-ever.”
“Graham responded, You have to understand. He left me the house. I haven’t got the heart to go back there, so I gifted the house to the Jamaican government to whom I send money.” Funds were clearly not used the way Payn intended. “What,” asked Day, “can we do?” He suggested aggressively lobbying the Jamaican government into repairing and maintaining the place, met with Payn in Switzerland and got involved. (Later, Day co-wrote Payn’s autobiography.)
Boxes and boxes of materials and first editions were gradually made available. To date, Day has written 12 books on Noel Coward and adapted a good many of his plays. “As the years go by, I’ve been trying to find what we haven’t used.”
Hoi Polloi (hoi pol·loi- the masses, common people)
Until 1945, Noel Coward enjoyed immense popularity. When the war ended, in light of continued austerity and rationing however, people felt they didn’t want to be reminded of the class consciousness of the 1930s. Having reinvented himself as one of the elite, fraternizing with the rich and titled, the part of Coward’s work that came readily to mind were light pieces depicting frivolous, leisure class people.
Curiously, audiences did not take into account such as Cavalcade, which followed the middle class Marryot family from 1900 to 1929 or This Happy Breed, observation of the working class Gibbons family between the end of World War I and the outbreak of World War II.
Hoi Polloi (1949) was the first piece Coward wrote after VE Day and something of an effort to show his sincere sympathy for the lower classes. It centers on a sailor with 24 hour leave who comes to London and meets Pinkie, the daughter of a grocer. They spend the day together and she takes him home to the family. Pinkie’s mother used to be on the music hall stage as Florence Follette, “a knock-out who never got to the West End.” She sings her signature number “Chase Me Charlie” (Over the Garden Wall.) Other undoubtedly familiar songs in the musical include “Sail Away,” “I Like America,” and “London Pride.” (When Coward stopped working on a musical, he often moved its better numbers elsewhere.)
The story of “London Pride” is that meeting someone at a bombed out station after a particularly bad blitz, Coward observed a little flower growing up between cracks in the pavement. Moved, he saw the defiant bloom as a key attribute of the British. “In times of stress, we get on with it,” Day explains. Then Coward recalled the flower’s name, London Pride. The song became a second national anthem during the war.
Outside Buckingham Palace, Pinky and her date find themselves talking to a decorated RAF Commander and his wife who invite them to a posh party that evening. The sailor would rather be alone with his new girl, but agrees to go. They have a good time. His leave is over, but he’ll see her weekends and they’ll get married. Of course.
Day tells me the musical offers perspective on a working class family by someone (a sailor) from outside the city and reflects the British people putting their lives back together. “It’s modest, but it’s classic Coward and fills a gap most people don’t know existed.”
Apparently, Coward felt Hoi Polloi was not sufficiently up-to-date and wrote a second version that made Pinky a singer in a dodgy cabaret called Ace of Clubs run by gangsters. The writer tried to depict a sleazy London he simply didn’t understand. This one was produced and ran-briefly. “Ironically, a year later in New York, he goes to see Guys and Dolls and realizes that’s how it should’ve been done.”
When Barry Day disinterred and adapted Hoi Polloi, he thought of Mel Miller’s venerable theater, Musicals Tonight which had presented two of Coward’s other shows. It will premiere at The Lion Theater November 1-13. A must at least for Coward fans, the piece will take us back to gentler and frankly pluckier times. Sounds like entertaining respite to me.
Photos and Drawing of Noel Coward and Original Show Music Courtesy of The Noel Coward Society
For its 90th revival, Musicals Tonight! chose 1953’s WonderfulTown, originally starring Edie Adams and Rosalind Russell. The Tony Award winning show was based on its librettists (Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov) 1940 play, My Sister Eileen, which, in turn, derived from Ruth McKenney’s New Yorker stories and book.
Savannah Frazier as Eileen
This lively production features the talents of Director Evan Pappas, whose keen eye for character turns and aesthetic arrangements even when his cast just poses, serve to entertain and enhance, and Choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo, whose work is buoyant. It also features an unusual cavalcade of good actors having fun with smaller roles.
Pretty, innocent, man-magnet Eileen (Savannah Frazier) and her smart, cynical, older sister Ruth (Elizabeth Broadhurst) have come to New York City from small town Ohio in search of fame and fortune, or at least lives where everyone doesn’t know everyone else’s business. Eileen dreams of becoming an actress, Ruth of earning her way as writer.
Savannah Frazier as Eileen, Elizabeth Broadhurst as Ruth, Javid J. Weins as Wreck, Jillian Gottlieb as Helen
The girls make a beeline for Greenwich Village where everyone knows artists live cheaply. Exhausted, they’re ambushed by a landlord named Appopolous (Perry Lambert, with deft accent and comic timing) who knows rubes when he sees them. He talks them into a tiny basement apartment with a window on the street. Within minutes, an explosion rocks the room- subway construction is going on beneath, but only, they’re assured, from 6am to midnight. (Sound effects are terrific.) Why, oh why, oh why, oh –why did I ever leave Ohio?…they sing.
When a stranger strolls in assuming the apartment is still inhabited by a prostitute, their neighbor, “Wreck” aka Ed Loomis (David J. Wiens) comes to the rescue. An ex-college football hero, the young man is sweet and simple. His girl, Helen (Jillian Gottlieb) timidly hides their relationship from her judgmental mother, Mrs. Wade (Leslie Alexander), at one point going so far as to board Wreck in the girls’ kitchen overnight.
Wonderful casting pairs the substantial Weins and tiny Gottlieb to best advantage. Moving her aside by absently lifting and repositioning her is directorial candy. Weins handles “Pass the Football” with dumb, wistful skill. Gottlieb manifests a perfect mouse-voice and kind of apt, fluttery presence.
James Donegan as Bob; Paul Binotto as Speedy and Perry Lambert as Appopolous
While Eileen strikes out at multiple auditions, she attracts both wholesome Walgreen’s manager, Frank (Ian Lowe) who gives her free lunches and heat-seeking, sleazeball newspaper reporter Chick (Leland Burnett), who promises to tell his editor about Ruth. Both are inadvertently invited to dinner the same night. Lowe is credibly low key and likeable in a role that might otherwise disappear. Burnett is oily from dialogue to body language, adding interest to his character.
Meanwhile, Ruth is summarily rejected until she encounters Bob (James Donegan), an editor on The Mad Hatter magazine (aka The New Yorker) who, recognizing his younger self, reads her dreadful stories. (Enactment of these is alas, a weaker segment.) Bob comes looking for the discouraged Ruth and is also invited to potluck by Eileen. In the well paced “Conversation Piece,” table chat is stilted, ulterior motives clash.
James Donegan is not only an attractive actor with a warm, appealing voice, but sympathetic in a role which is sometimes a placeholder. His reading of Ruth’s stories aloud has just the right restrained, but incredulous tone. I’d be interested in seeing this thespian in a straight play.
James Donegan as Bob, Savannah Frazier as Eileen, Leland Burnett as Chick, Elizabeth Broadhurst as Ruth, Ian Lowe as Frank
Ruth inadvertently gets herself involved with a bunch of South American sailors who love the “Conga.” (Choreography is fun, though opportunity was missed in not snaking down the otherwise well employed theater aisle.) When Eileen tries to help, she gets arrested and ends up captivating the police department who serenade her with “My Darlin’ Eileen.” Joshua Downs portrays the station captain with genial charm, Irish lilt, and a pleasing vocal.
Eileen also lands on the front page of a newspaper which secures her employment as an entertainer by Club Vortex owner, Speedy Valente (Paul Binotto, an amusing, come-to-life cartoon.) “Ballet at The Village Vortex” offers infectious choreography. Needless to say, everyone is paired up and employed by the end.
Savannah Frazier as Eileen, Elizabeth Broadhurst as Ruth
It’s the journey that counts. Take it. The musical itself is a romp and there are so many unexpectedly nifty moments, I found myself smiling almost throughout the whole piece.
I imagine Eileen a bit more naïve than depicted, but Savannah Frazier has a simply lovely voice and settling in, enchants more than just the men on stage. Asking the police to fetch and carry for her, Frazier morphs into the girl who blithely takes this for granted.
Elizabeth Broadhurst (Ruth) does a yeoman-like job, but never quite gets Ruth’s caustic fatalism. Helpless moments with the sailors are effective as are earnest speeches about her writing and concern for her sister.
Also featuring: Brekken Baker, Abby Hart, Allyson Tolbert, Piera Calabro
Photos by Michael Portantiere
Opening: Eric Shorey (also an engaging tour guide at the show’s top), Neville Braithwaite, Ryan Rhue, Dallas Padoven, Elizabeth Broadhurst as Ruth, Isaac Matthews
Musicals Tonight! presents
Libretto- Joseph Fields/Jerome Chodorov
Lyrics- Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Directed by Evan Pappas
Choreographed by Antoinette DiPietropolo
Music Director/Vocal Arranger-James Stenborg
The Lion Theatre
410 West 42 Street
Through April 17, 2016 Come back in October for next season’s first production Funny Face by George and Ira Gershwin
This 1960 musical which astonishingly ran a year, featured then popular Nancy Walker and Phil Silvers. Damon Runyonish without the swell songs and nifty book of 1950’s Guys and Dolls, the show must’ve been a vehicle for its stars. To my mind, it contains one timeless ballad- “Make Someone Happy,” two somewhat amusing girl group songs- “All You Need is A Quarter” and the quirky “What’s New at the Zoo,” one successful, tongue-in-cheek number “It’s Legitimate,” and one comic (musical) soliloquy “The Late, Late Show.” Otherwise material is tuneless and verbose. The game company does manage to deliver some entertainment, however.
Whitney Meyer, Beth DeMichele, Anna Bucci; Daniel Marcus
Briefly, Hubie Cram (the Nathan Lane-ish Patrick John Moran) is a losing dreamer and small time con man looking for the big score. His loving wife, Kay, (Laura Daniel) wants him to take a job in her father’s dry cleaning business, but, patience wearing thin, sticks by him nonetheless. Hubie fixes on the idea of cornering the jukebox market and enlists former gangster comrades, Fitzo (Daniel Marcus), Brains (Roger Rifkin) and Skin (Michael Scott.) His intentions are legitimate, theirs reflexively shady. At the same time, he discovers singing waitress Tilda (Beth DeMichele) and starts recording her.
Beth DeMichele and Patrick John Moran; Tyler Milliron and Beth DeMichele
The jukebox business is a failure, but Tilda’s a success. When she falls in love at first sight with music industry competitor, John Henry Wheeler (Tyler Milliron), the hoodlums are sure their golden goose will leave and plan on violent measures. Before this can happen, everyone is pulled into a Washington DC court for strong-arming practices. It’s Hubie’s first experience in the spotlight and, despite threat of incarceration, he loves it. (Moran’s face is a pitch perfect reflection.) Needless to say, everything turns out fine.
Patrick John Moran and Laura Daniel
Patrick John Moran (Hubie) deserves better material. There’s a sweetness about his ineptitude and frustration. The actor has good comic timing and delivers solid vocals. Were direction lighter, he’d surely be funnier as well.
Laura Daniel is credibly working class, long suffering and devoted. Adding some specific physicality to her character would help define Kay.
The best voice on the stage belongs to Beth DeMichele (Tilda), who is also an appealingly natural actress. If Tyler Milliron would take his resonant vocals down a notch, the two would mesh nicely.
Of the gangsters, Daniel Marcus’ Fitzo stands out. His accent is grand. Marcus moves heavier than he is, reacting with habitual speed and attitude that illuminates the crook.
Director/Choreographer Donald Brenner’s high spots are two terrific girl group numbers with very cool synchronized movement. He should do a fifties show.
Photos by Michael Portantiere Opening: Laura Daniel and Patrick John Moran Whitney Meyer, Beth DeMichele, Anna Bucci; Daniel Marcus Beth DeMichele and Patrick John Moran; Tyler Milliron and Beth DeMichele Patrick John Moran and Laura Daniel
Musicals Tonight! presents Do Re Mi
Libretto- Garson Kanin; Music- Jule Style; Lyrics-Betty Comden and Adolph Green
This Production Directed and Choreographed by Donald Brenner
Music Director/Vocal Arranger- David B. Bishop
The Lion Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
Through April 3, 2016
Tickets at Telecharge or The Lion Theatre Box Office
NEXT April 5-17 : Wonderful Town