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April 27th, 2012

We have a friend in town from Paris.  She's a medievalist, specializing in the prose Alexander and the way Alexander the Great was depicted in illustrations of the same.  We went to her thesis defense in Paris a few years ago, which was a whole lot more scary than mine was, I'm here to tell you.  Lasted almost all day, open to the public, and the hall was PACKED--must have been more than a hundred people there.  She knows all there is to know about Medieval art, and going to Ste Chapelle or Notre Dame or Cluny with her is an education all in itself.  She's also an enthusiastic dancer and a not-so-secret Lover of Musicals.

Which is why we've been to two in two days, er, nights.

For some reason, LJ lost the second half of my review of "Anything Goes."  I can't recapture it, but I do want to say that I loved Joel Grey, who played Moonface Martin as Mark Rylance in Boeing-Boeing:  wry, slightly bewildered, clear-eyed (even when drunk), and oddly, primally innocent.  In many ways, it's a very innocent play, despite the hymn of praise to Public Enemy #1, another to sleeping around ("Buddy Beware"), a nightclub singer who used to be an evangelist, some very sexy angels, an (almost) forced marriage, an implied dog-drowning, and assorted sketchy priests, captains (of industry and ocean liners) and concupiscent sailors.  Everybody's a con man of one kind or another, hiding a secret past, passion, or dream.  And yet, they are cheerful, forward-looking, (except for the ingenue, the incongruously-named Hope, who despairs at the drop of a hat), and damned fine dancers.

I think it must be the music.  Porter is at his wry, cheerfully cynical best in songs like "You're the Top" (one of my favorite songs in the world) and "Friendship" and "I Get A Kick Out Of You."  And "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" made me cry, solely and entirely because of how it was used in the wonderful Porter bio-pic "De-Lovely," which you should all rent IMMEDIATELY if not sooner, because So Very Good.

OK, that's mostly what I said (except for something exceptionally clever about Joel Grey's silly duet in the second act with a blue follow-spot playing a bluebird singing "tweet-tweet", which is lost in the mists of whatever, and a tolerably lyrical description of the Act I finale tapstravaganza "Anything Goes."  Ah, well.  Sic Transit Verbum LJ.)

Wednesday night was more of a mixed bag, at least in terms of the actual play.  How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a leaner, meaner, more sexist machine than Anything Goes.  Its cynicism is narrow-eyed, its humor is not particularly good-natured, and its assumption that girls just work until they land a rich husband with a house in New Rochelle is more uncomfortable for a woman who is aware of just how close we are to that world to be funny.  That said, it's a very tightly-written, smart book, the good songs are catchy, if not particularly witty or melodically interesting, and the so-so ones are so very WTF they almost achieve a kind of greatness.  I'm looking at you, "Cinderella Darling," in which the secretaries encourage Rosemary not to dump the trickster-hero (who says he adores her, but completely and totally ignores her in favor of his career) to stick by him because her engagement gives them hope they'll land neglectful workoholics someday themselves. 

In short, this is no play for a feminist.  It is, apparently, a play for fans of Nick Jonas, who has replaced Harry Potter Daniel Radcliff as J. Pierrepont Finch (call me Ponty).  The audience was full of 20-somethings in very short dresses and very high heels, who practically fainted en masse when he came on.  He is actually great in the part--perky, energetic, arrogant, an extremely flexible dancer, and a fine, strong singer with excellent elocution.  Of the rest of the cast, I loved Beau Bridges as J.B. Biggley, the philandering, old-school-tie-obsessed, knitting president of the World Wide Wicket corporation.  And Stephanie Rothenberg (who comes to Broadway from a career as a Disney voice actress), who gives the model secretary/love-interest/doormat character a certain Giselle (from Disney's Enchanted) wide-eyed charm.  The chorus was dynamite, the choreography a lot wittier than the lyrics, the costumes pitch-perfect early 60's.  My favorite part of the set was the backdrop of the early 60's Midtown skyline, including the Pan Am Building (where my father worked) and the Chrysler Building (where he worked before the Pan Am Building was built), and a building that looked like a honeycomb I recognize, but don't know the name of. 

And that's it, really.  Except for a short irritation break over the fact that the preceding two paragraphs are in Italics, despite my best efforts to make them Roman.

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