A Decade in Review

As we approach the end of 2010 as well as the first decade of the 21st century (There’s no such thing as Year 0 in our calendar), I’ve been looking back on the ten years of theatregoing I have had and have compiled a list of some favorite moments:

January 9, 2001 – It was my third Broadway show, but the sublime revival of Kiss Me Kate was the first show in NY that made me feel as though I were ten feet in the air. Stylish, elegant and irrepressibly funny, I went with my high school AP English classes (one section was reading The Taming of the Shrew). Starring Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie (whom I adored from the original cast recordings of Ragtime), the revival (at the Martin Beck). I can remember every detail. We gathered after school, caught a train and headed right to TKTS (my first time at the booth) then dinner at TGI Fridays. I sat with my favorite English teacher, Fran Schulz, and we just laughed and laughed. We were breathless by intermission and practically needed oxygen by the end of act two. It’s become the standard by which I judge all musical comedy revivals. The London company was preserved for PBS telecast and DVD, but that incarnation doesn’t live up to my memories of this enchanted evening.

July 9, 2002 – Noises Off! I didn’t think I’d see the revival, which had recently won a Tony Award for featured actress Katie Finneran. However, while roaming the local mall on school break with a friend, I saw there was a contest for free tickets to the production. For the hell of it, I just put my name on the piece of paper and tossed it into this vat of thousands of slips. You can imagine my surprise when I got a phone call telling me how to arrange my free tickets. Knowing that the revival’s original cast would be departing, I arranged for the final week of their run. I’m glad I did; it was one of the most hilarious productions I’ve ever seen. It was my first time seeing Patti LuPone, Faith Prince, Richard Easton and T.R. Knight onstage. On top of it, it was also the first time I stage-doored a production and as a result I fell in love with Katie Finneran, who showed me great personal kindness and graciousness in a brief moment. Noises Off was the funniest production I’d seen until The Norman Conquests in 2009.

November 27, 2003 – Barbara Cook Sings Mostly Sondheim. I’ve long been a huge admirer but had never seen her perform live. Then I received word that she’d be in my very town while I was on Thanksgiving break. I had the CD of the 2001 Carnegie Hall concert, which featured Malcolm Gets. However, in Peekskill, it was just Barbara and her three man band. I sat in third row center and just basked in the performance. Her nuance with the lyrics, her warmth and humor, the depth of her feeling as she delved into the lyrics. The pinnacle, though, was hearing Cook sing “Ice Cream” her trademark number from She Loves Me. In the original key, no less. Chalk that one up to musical theatre zen.

May 27, 2004. I’ve talked about this day before, as it remains one of the most important of my life. Without the final performance of Gypsy with Bernadette, I wouldn’t have such marvelous friends like Noah and SarahB (and the extended family as a result). It was my first time at a Broadway closing (I’ve now done 14) and it was the first time I ever went backstage at a Broadway house. It was also the first time I saw Bernadette onstage, and in spite of what you see in print these days, her performance was well received by critics and audiences alike. And she should have won the damn Tony.

April 18, 2005. My first opening night. The Light in the Piazza at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. (To date I have done 7 opening nights). It was the start of an obsession with a superlative musical, which I ended up seeing 12 times throughout its run. There have been many other important theatregoing experiences of my life, but none that have been this magical. Victoria Clark’s performance as Margaret Johnson was one for the ages, and Kelli O’Hara was equally sublime as her daughter. Adam Guettel’s score was one of the best of the decade and it’s a shame we haven’t yet heard anything new from this brilliant composer/lyricist.

December 4, 2007 – August: Osage County opening night at the Imperial. I’d never gotten more dressed up or cared more about my appearance than this particular opening, as I was a guest of Noah. Because of the union strike, the opening had been delayed and by my great good fortune I was allowed to attend. It was a lot of fun standing in the lobby with Sarah, Kari and Sally people watching people as the stars made their entrance into the lobby. But what was even more amusing was the fact that there were celebrities who were there because they just had tickets for that performance – and celebrities who brought celebrity friends as plus-ones. But nothing prepared me for the searing power of Tracy Letts’ play with a dynamite cast including Deanna Dunagan, Amy Morton and Rondi Reed. After the second act, I was in need of air. Saw this three and a half hour play 7 times.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007. My first post-Tony performance. We were in attendance after Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson won Tonys for their brilliant work on Grey Gardens. I had seen and loved the show earlier in its Broadway run, but the audience at this show made it something to behold. The applause at the top of the show threw the actresses off of the pre-recorded track (charmingly saved by Wilson) and Ebersole received the only second act standing ovation I’ve ever seen upon her entrance as Little Edie just before stopping the show with “The Revolutionary Costume for Today.”

March 27, 2008 & April 4, 2008. Two glorious revivals of American musical classics opened: Gypsy at the St. James Theatre, South Pacific at the Vivian Beaumont. I was in attendance for both and just adored both productions. I’m of the school that loved both Bernadette and Patti, so comparisons are a moot point there. However, this second revival was aided considerably by the sublime Tony-winning performances of Laura Benanti and Boyd Gaines. Over at Lincoln Center, Bart Sher directed what is probably the best production of a musical I’ve ever seen. Superbly cast, thrillingly sung and acted – and that orchestra of 30. I couldn’t ask for a better week at the theatre (interspersed between the two were favorite flops Juno and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue/A White House Cantata).

May 11, 2008. Two-fold. Brunch at Joe Allen’s and No No Nanette at City Center Encores. Each in itself was an event worth rejoicing, but the combination made it a day for the ages. It was the first gathering of the Bloggers Who Brunch (as I like to call our gatherings). At that point, I had only been blogging for seven months and it was the first time I was aware that there were other people whom I didn’t know that were reading what I had to write! It was the start of many wonderful friendships that I continue to cherish wholeheartedly. The afternoon was spent SarahB in my first visit to the TLC before we took in the fabulous production of Nanette, which is still the best of the best when it comes to the Encores productions I’ve seen – and the only one I think deserved a Broadway transfer. The performances were all top-drawer (esp. Sandy Duncan and Beth Leavel), the choreography was sublime as were the costumes and orchestrations and… well everything. The evening ended at Seppi’s afterward with many of the folks from brunch, all of us smiling and singing “I Want to Be Happy” until the wee hours.

March 15, 2009. I had seen Angela Lansbury make her Broadway return in Terrence McNally’s Deuce opposite Marian Seldes and I would see her sublime portrait of Madame Armfeldt in the revival of A Little Night Music. But there was something extra-special about her Tony-winning performance as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit. I never would have imagined Lansbury would have such a Broadway renaissance, but am so grateful to have been here to witness it. As Arcati, Lansbury was an utter delight and continued to become even more entertaining as the run progressed. She nailed every laugh, gesture and indignant expression. And watching her improvise her spirit dance around the Condomine living room was worth the price of admission. This opening night was like something out of a 50s movie: tie and tails, elegant evening gowns and a party at Sardi’s. We maintained our own mad-cap party of sorts on the street and gleefully applauded the Liz Ashley as she got into her car (“I’m not in the show!”)

May 16 & July 26, 2009 – The Norman Conquests. I had been out of the country for the birth of my nephew when the announcements and the marquee went up and was a little surprised to see the play’s logo at Circle in the Square upon my return. I confess, I knew very little about Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy of plays. But on a whim, I decided to take in a Saturday marathon of all three. It would become one of the most personally satisfying theatrical experiences of my life. A brilliant ensemble, impeccable direction by Matthew Warchus made these plays the funniest dramas or the saddest comedies I’ve ever seen. I was aching with laughter. I loved it so much, I had to be there for the final marathon which only cemented its place in my estimation. The ensemble was brilliant, but Stephen Mangan’s turn as Norman remains a personal favorite of all time.

September 18, 2009. I only knew of The Royal Family from its place in theatrical lore, but was excited to see the play at Manhattan Theatre Club. Sarah and I attended this early preview and were in awe. Jan Maxwell owned the stage as Julie Cavendish, in a sublime study in comedy. I also just adored Rosemary Harris as the aging matriarch, whose eleven o’clock moment took my breath away both times I saw the show. But more than the production itself, it was the way it made me feel – I loved the Cavendish dynasty and reveled in their love of all things theatre and would have loved to have been a member of the extended family.

December 12, 2010 – The final performance of The Scottsboro Boys. The performance was brilliant, as I knew it would be. However, it was the audience that surprised me this time. Before the show started, the audience gave composer John Kander a spontaneous full-house standing ovation – a gesture I’ve never seen in my ten years of theatregoing. At the curtain call, Kander toasted the late Fred Ebb, librettist David Thompson toasted the real-life Scottsboro Boys and director/choreographer Susan Stroman toasted the entire audience.

Every trip to the theatre is a memory for me, some good and some bad. (The Philanthropist, Bye Bye Birdie, The Ritz, Next Fall… but why dwell on the negative?) So here’s to the next decade and all the wonderful theatre it will bring.

Pure Joy

The other night, a good friend and I were having a conversation about No, No Nanette and he seemed both surprised and bemused that I was just over the moon espousing the show’s virtues. Though it was two and a half years ago that I saw the show at Encores!, my memories of the Broadway ready revival are vivid and fresh. (Why oh why didn’t this one transfer?!) When asked why I like it so much, the simplest answer I could give was that “It’s pure joy from start to finish.” I’ve been giving that statement a great deal of thought. It’s one of the most honest answers I’ve ever given, but one of the most unique. That’s not to say I don’t find myself regularly having a miserable time at a musical. Far from it. But there are so few shows or productions that give that fizzy champagne/good time feeling – and are able to sustain that feeling from the beginning to end. These are the musicals where I find myself smiling from ear to ear from the first note of the overture until long after I’ve left the theatre, and mostly because of the sheer happiness I feel as a result.

Nanette is definitely one of those shows. The 1971 revisal that is. I’ve heard the original 1925 show with its original arrangements and orchestrations and I honestly feel that they somehow did it better in ’71. The experience of getting the show up and running was a bit of a nightmare, but it produced a surprise smash at the 46th Street Theatre. Folks wanted nostalgia and this show offered a wonderful slice of period flavor, with a familiar score, a simple farcical plot and tap-happy showstoppers. Ralph Burns did the orchestrations, Buster Davis did the vocal arrangements and Luther Henderson provided incidental and dance music.

I knew I was in for a treat the moment the orchestra started playing the overture with strains of “I Want to Be Happy” and I was flooded with warmth from head to toe once the twin grand pianos started playing during “Tea for Two.” My happiness didn’t let up for a long time; I was humming “I Want to Be Happy” ad nauseam, listening to the superb 1971 cast recording. The score (music by Vincent Youmans, lyrics by Irving Caesar and Otto Harbach) is filled with songs that are breezy, light and evoke another era altogether. Listening to the original cast album is just as much fun as seeing the show, from that delightful overture to the finale of “I Want to Be Happy” with the entire cast strumming ukuleles.

Another one is Mame, with one of the freshest, most wondrous original cast albums ever recorded. It gets off to a sock start with those first trilling strings and winds that soar up the octave as the brass belts out the title song. Its orchestrations by Phil Lang are pitch perfect, brassy, bold and exciting. It starts the ball rolling with one gem after another. The Mame score may not be anything revolutionary, but it was musical comedy writing at its finest. Easily my favorite Jerry Herman score and I’ve enjoyed them all. Angela Lansbury shimmers in her star turn – the trumpet blast that was added for the 1998 reissue makes her entrance in gold pajamas all the more vivid. The original show made a musical theatre star of Lansbury, who took the town by storm. Each performance sparkles: Lansbury, Bea Arthur, Jane Connell, Frankie Michaels, Jerry Lanning and Charles Braswell are all wonderful and blessedly definitive. The ensemble is stunning – big voices, lots of great arrangements and an energy that just flies out from the speakers.

Then there’s the title song, a master class of musical comedy unto itself – and the leading lady doesn’t even sing a word of it! It starts slow and builds and builds through several choruses. Then the ensemble breaks into a spirited gallop, by which point the leading lady is still silent but overjoyed and moved. Just when you think it can’t get better, Lang and Pippin bring the gallop back in for the first pullback which consists of a cakewalk across the stage (props to Onna White for the choreography). But it’s not done! It modulates up a half step for the final section, a full-out fortissimo to bring it to its requisite big finish. The banjo is only measures away from needing new strings, the trumpet is blasting a high solo while the trombones descend in the bass line. All through this, the drummer is steadily beating out a simple but insistent 4/4 downbeat. It’s enough to make you stand up and cheer in your living room.

The album, superbly produced by Goddard Lieberson, captures the high spirits of those first days when the show was getting ovations like you would not believe. (SarahB has relayed the story of the title song in Philadelphia bringing the show to such a halt, theatregoers were standing on their chairs). The orchestrations are beautifully balanced and there is that light touch of reverb that made those Columbia albums the best ever recorded. You’d think they’d just recorded it in a theatre, full costume and all. I even like “That How Young I Feel,” which is the one number from the score that most dismiss (though I do wish they had recorded its jitterbug dance break). Mame is an album I would bring to a desert island without having to think twice. I’ve never seen a stage production of the show that has equaled the album, but I’m still waiting for the Broadway revival with Donna Murphy.

These are the kind of things I turn to when I want a score that will make me feel happier. Joy at its simplest is a hard emotion to evoke without causing cavities or a diabetic coma. There are many, many shows that try to force that joy on the audience and those usually seem mechanical and fall flat. The joy I speak of isn’t something tangible. You can’t quite put the finger on it, but there is that quality that makes it stand out from the rest (not unlike star presence). It’s easier to charm, provoke or even get a laugh, than it is to evoke the feeling of pure, unadulterated happiness and elation. There are performances on other albums that give me joy, even if the score doesn’t, or a song here or there. But it’s incredibly hard for a show from first note to last to do it.

These are two of mine, but I know that there are others. What I’d like to know is: what scores bring you joy?

Theatrical Highlights of the Year

1. Sunday in the Park With George. January 25, 2008 @ Studio 54. This was the first of three big musical revivals that set fire to the New York stage this year. An import from London, the cast was led by Olivier winners Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell, with able support from Mary Beth Peil (her ability to listen as an actress was a marvel to watch), Michael Cumpsty and Jessica Molaskey and company. The revival featured spectacular scenography, with breathtaking visual design that enhanced the experience. I’ve never seen the second act work so well before. The only complaint was the reduced orchestration.

2. Gypsy. March 27, 2008 @ the St. James Theatre. The superlative City Center Encores! production became the most acclaimed Broadway revival of the show in my lifetime. All but Nancy Opel transferred, bringing something more in depth to the tables as actors, as well as marking the return of Lenora Nemetz to Broadway after an absence of more than two decades. LuPone, Gaines and Benanti won deserved Tonys for their work, with the latter two providing especially definitive interpretations of their roles. Quibbles with the minimalist production, unnecessary edits and kabuki lamb not-with-standing, a stirring, earth-shattering revival of the Great American Musical.

3. A White House Cantata. March 31, 2008 @ Jazz at Lincoln Center. This marked the NY debut of the concert adaptation of Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner’s colossal (and much-loved, by me anyhow) flop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Though a concert presentation from the Collegiate Chorale, it was important as it was a presentation of an incredibly rare and important Broadway score, one that has long been forgotten because of the embarrassment surrounding its original concept and staging. While I would have preferred theatre actors to opera singers, I was still thrilled for the opportunity to hear many of the favorites of the score performed live with Hershy Kay’s original orchestrations. I still hold out hope that the estates will let Encores! put on the original Broadway 1600 with Victoria Clark giving us the “Duet for One” (and perhaps a chance for the overture to be heard).

4. South Pacific. April 3, 2008 @ the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. One of the most entrancing musical revivals I’ve ever seen. My excitement for the production was high from the first announcement that the show was a go a couple years back. Kelli O’Hara and Paolo Szot oozed sensuality as Nellie and Emile, with his “This Nearly Was Mine” bringing down the house. Matthew Morrison sounded better than I’ve ever heard him sing, and his acting continues to grow more nuanced and polished. Danny Burstein channeled more than a little Bert Lahr into his Luther Billis, but that was okay. And finally, the delightfully gracious Loretta Ables-Sayre made her Broadway debut as Bloody Mary, finding depth and humor from within the character. The staging and its design were flawless, with eye-popping and lush visuals. Plus there was that packed orchestra with that glorious reveal during the Overture. What what was a pleasant surprise was that it quickly became (and still is) one of the hottest tickets in town.

5. La Fille du Regiment. April 18, 2008 @ the Metropolitan Opera House. I had never even heard of Donizetti’s opera comique when Sarah offered me a comp to the open dress rehearsal. Since it was the right price and seemed like a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, I was decidedly game. However, I didn’t expect to be totally overwhelmed by the production. World-renown coloratura Natalie Dessay was playing opposite tenor Juan Diego Florez, with Marian Seldes making her Met debut in a cameo role. I was thoroughly engaged but went into a near frenzy when Florez tackled that Mount Everest of arias, “Ah, mes ami! quel jour de fete!” (aka “Pour mon ame”). The aria demands nine high C’s in a row, and is a challenge for even the most nimble and technically proficient singer. It was one of those rare moments that you watch well aware that you – and everyone around you – is about to go completely wild with enthuiastic applause, which we certainly did. Dessay and Florez’s chemistry is palpable and their vocal blend is top-notch, and I hope to see them together again in La Sonnambula this spring.

6. No, No, Nanette. May 11, 2008 @ the City Center. Hands down, the best thing I’ve ever seen performed at Encores! There was the most polish, the sturdiest direction, the best choreography, costumes to complement stellar casting. The show itself is a wonderful example of the pre-Show Boat crowdpleasing musical comedy with its trite characters and machinations; however, the show, especially as seen in its 1971 revisal (presented here) is nothing but a huge Valentine to the 1920s (Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Drowsy Chaperone are decidedly not). Sandy Duncan tore it up at 62 with the chorines, kicking just as high and twice as energetic as the kids. Charles Kimbrough was charming. Mara Davi was an ingenue delight. Rosie O’Donnell had a blast supporting as the wise-cracking maid. Michael Berresse charmed and danced up a storm (another one who could have been a fantastic Joey Evans). But it was Beth Leavel who walked away with the evening, particularly her devastating eleven o’clock torcher “The Where-Has-My-Hubby-Gone-Blues.” Infectious, endearing and charming, we hummed all the way across the street to Seppi’s. This is one Encores! I wish made a transfer to Broadway.

7. Boeing Boeing. September 3, 2008 @ the Longacre Theatre. What should have been a tired, unfunny exercise in bad farce turned into one of the freshest comedies of the season, winning the Best Play Revival and Best Actor Tony awards. The success is owed in part to Matthew Warchus, who took this English adaptation of a third rate French farce and felt that there was something to work with there. The majority of the success; however, belongs to Tony-winner Mark Rylance in his Broadway debut. Originating the part in Warchus’ original London production in 2007, Rylance’s character was a complete creation of his own, finding succinct choices as an actor which proved uproarious onstage. Bradley Whitford, Christine Baranski, Kathryn Hahn and especially the fearless Mary McCormack provided sturdy support.

8. [title of show]. September 27, 2008 @ the Lyceum Theatre. The one everyone thought I’d hate, but to the surprise of apparently everyone, I absolutely adored it from start to finish. Fresh, effervescent and unyieldingly clever and entertaining, the show might have fared better had it played a smaller Broadway house like the Helen Hayes or the Circle in the Square. Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff are all heroes, with special mention of Blackwell’s unique comic sensibility (“Die, Vampire, Die!”) and Blickenstaff’s vocal prowess (“A Way Back to Then”). I hope they all receive Tony nominations this spring. A return visit for the closing performance only cemented my admiration for the show and those who created/starred in it. The final performance of “Nine People’s Favorite Thing” prompted the longest Routledge ever witnessed by this Aficionado – three whole minutes.

9. On the Town. November 23, 2008 @ the City Center. In celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s birthday, the Encores! crowd decided to present his first Broadway musical as the debut of their latest season. The score is superb, the comedy hilarious. The book is a trifle, but with such winning numbers, zany antics and plentiful opportunities for exceptional dancing. Tony Yazbeck is a star on the rise – and I am glad to have seen him in this. Andrea Martin was the comic highlight with her uproarious turn as Madame Dilly. Of course, they rumored a transfer, as seems to be the case for every favorably reviewed Encores! show, but that seems quite unlikely.

What I want to see next year: Blithe Spirit, Billy Elliot, Music in the Air at Encores!, Hedda Gabler, All My Sons, Equus, The Philanthropists, Waiting for Godot, The American Plan, 9 to 5, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Firebrand of Florence (Collegiate Chorale concert), La Sonnambula at the Met, West Side Story, 33 Variations, Mary Stuart, Impressionism, Accent on Youth, Happiness, Mourning Becomes Electra.

The Bloggers Who Brunch

Well, gang, I’ve come to the end of what was a near perfect day. I make an attempt to never speak in superlatives, strange foible of mine, but oh well. Anyhow, I spent the majority of my day having new adventures (as Sarah would put it) with many new friends, most of whom I’ve encountered through starting my blog. Brunch commenced at Joe Allen’s, in what I would like to term our own version of the Algonquin Round Table (the password to join is “Marian. Marian Seldes.” But remember kids, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it…). There I met Esther, Steve, Doug, Joe and Eric; all intense theatrephiles who reside out of town, and all of whom I admired and enjoyed instantly. Of course the days adventures would be incomplete without Kari, Sarah and Jimmy. While others traipsed off to matinees of some sort or other, I went hung out with Sarah for the afternoon, which of course involved Angela Lansbury and Prettybelle. Then in another first, I actually rode the city bus.

Some of us attended that evening’s performance of Encores! No, No Nanette which is probably the strongest production I’ve seen at the City Center. I had but one qualm with the entire effervescent evening: that it was over. The plot is shaky thin, but that’s what one expects from the pre-Show Boat musical comedies. The music (Vincent Youmans, with lyrics from Otto Harbach & Irving Caesar) is infectious, the choreography (Randy Skinner), direction (Walter Bobbie) and costumes (Gregg Barnes) were top notch.

Usually, the Encores! crowd presents the original version of the show at hand, but in an unusual turn of events, there are two available editions of this musical: the 1925 original and the even more successful 1971 revisal (by Burt Shevelove) that played two years (and featured Ruby Keeler in a triumphant return to Broadway after 41 years). For this production, the powers that be decided on the ’71 version of the show, and I have to confess I’m glad they did.

In reviving the show in 1971, the country was into what is being referred to as its nostalgia craze. They were reissuing the Busby Berkeley musicals, other musicals about the 1920s and 30s were being written. Plus given the context of the virulent 60s, it made sense that entertainment leaned toward the more innocent escapism of these earlier years. Berkeley was even initially hired to direct, but wasn’t well enough to handle the task (Shevelove took over direction, Berkeley retained credit as “Production supervised by”). Donald Saddler provided the choreography. Ralphs Burns charted the orchestrations (the twin pianos provided chills, I kid you not) and Luther Henderson created the dance music.

In this evening’s performance, everything was spot on. It was a celebration of the 20s, without becoming overly campy and most refreshingly without the di rigeur self-referential satiric edges that have become so commonplace in the musical comedies of the present decade. What also was so refreshing was the audience’s complete surrender to the show. Sandy Duncan is 62 years old, which incidentally is the same age as Ruby Keeler when she did it, and from the way she carried her two big showstopping dance numbers, you’d think she was a youthful chorine. We need her back on Broadway, and how. A dancer’s longevity is rare; exceptions like Donna McKechnie and Chita Rivera come to mind instantaneously. I would place Duncan up in that area. Perhaps, since her signature musical role comes second hand, she might not be considered as such. But, my God, she delivers, high-kicking, fan-tailing and limber with endless energy and effortlessness. It felt like the auditorium was going to come tumbling down around us as she led the sure-fire “Take a Little One Step” that precedes the finale. Kudos to Beth Leavel, who knows how to bring the hilarious, can move like the breeze and can sock it to the rafters. (“The Where-Has-My-Hubby-Gone Blues” was a definitive showstopper. So was her next line). Did anyone else notice the subtle wink she gave the audience when the ovation continued to roar? Michael Berresse is a good dancer. Alright, you got me, an understatement of the grossest sort! He made Skinner’s moves look effortless – he’s certainly a throwback to the Gene Kelly mode, no? The ever-reliable and affable Charles Kimbrough was the philandering Bible-salesman who’s habit of keeping secret women (all of whom he gives money to keep happy, but it’s seriously strictly platonic) leads to most of the conflicts. Mara Davi, a soubrette who deserves her own vehicle, was even better than I had anticipated. Shonn Wiley (who, incidentally, I also saw at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Crazy For You in 2000 opposite his now-wife Meredith Patterson) had the thankless role of Tom, her beloved, relishing in the role of the square-cut, straight-laced type. Oh yes, and the maid. There’s always the wise-cracking maid. Here it was played the lover extraordinaire of all things Broadway, Rosie O’Donnell, providing laughs with her world-weariness, a showdown with a vacuum cleaner and even a brief tap solo towards the end of the show. I am thrilled to have seen the show, mostly because of its place as an early 20s hit. A show that most would scoff at under normal circumstances, but is the epitome of the type of musical theatre that should be celebrated by Encores!.

The show is strong enough that it could seriously transfer to Broadway. The polish and caliber for a mere 8 days of rehearsal is beyond the call of duty in concert situations like this. I didn’t even catch anyone really glancing at their concert prompt-binders either. I’m not sure if anyone would be interested in a transfer, but believe me, I wouldn’t mind seeing it again. And I’m sure most of those who saw it this weekend feel the same way. Post-show was spent at what is the post-City Center hangout, Seppi’s on 56th for some food and my usual white Russian. Not to mention “I Want to Be Happy” stuck in our heads. It should be criminal to have had as much fun as I did today. I look forward to the next time people come back into town.

The final line from Sandy Duncan’s bio: “And, contrary to urban myth, she does not have a glass eye.”

And now you know the rest of the story…