Within five minutes of the curtain going up, the audience is very aware this will be an evening of song and dance. And the promise is fulfilled via an energetic cast, talented direction, sterling songs and a whisper thin but enjoyable book.
David Merrick’s original Broadway production has been ably remounted and musical lovers can choose between productions in San Diego and Los Angeles.
Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes and suitably subtitled ‘The Song and Dance Fable of Broadway” the production roars out of the box and only falters as it nears the end of the first act.
The play within a play structure has been plumbed successfully in productions like “Kiss Me Kate” and it works well here as well.
Standouts in the Los Angeles cast include Blake Stadnik as the tireless Billy Lawlor. His work in numbers like “Dames,” “I Only Have Eyes For You” and the eponymous title song is remarkable. Indeed, when Matthew J. Taylor reprises the title song at the end of the evening, he understandably generates an audible gasp of appreciation from the audience. His role as the show’s director is sturdy.
Newcomer Caitlin Ehlinger plays newcomer Peggy Sawyer, the starry eyed ingénue from Allentown. Her perky demeanor and tapdancing talent catch the eye of the onstage cast in tandem with the audience.
The production is filled with memorable songs (lyrics by Al Dubin, Johnny Mercer and Matt Dixon, music by Harry Warren). Set in 1933 in NYC and Philadelphia, the songs reflect the escapism needed for the era. “Lullaby of Broadway” and “We’re in the Money” are noteworthy, as is the frisky “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.”
The touring orchestra under the direction of J. Michael Duff keeps the songs brisk. The costumes and stage design support the production ably.