Friday, April 29, 2005

THE MUSICAL COMEDY ON BROADWAY is constant as a star, though in the luminescence of the New York skyline, or weather-permitting, sometimes difficult to glimpse. And pondering the stars in the firmament, whether in wishful desire or true appreciation of the sublime wonder of Heaven and Earth, divine or otherwise; can be an epiphany of Ecclesiastical proportions, or as pedestrian as spying a tourist from a passing cab.

IT’S definitely not that I didn’t like the show, and it must be said that, though the performances (by an excellent cast of venerable Broadway stalwarts and a handful of Hollywood notables) and the choreography weren’t close to approaching the tip of being tip-top but merely dancing around the summit: there were moments, many, many fine moments (some pretty good, some only passably excellent) which scaled and ascended the peaks of footlight greatness. However, while the pinnacle of breathlessly superfluous accolades was clearly within reach, this show fails to grasp the ultimate honor of attaining the highest of heights, and, merely plateaus at the penultimate achievement of being, overall, (and taking into consideration the current climate of contemporary plays and musicals), and in all fairness, a rather decidedly pretty decent show which is basically not bad and successfully manages to eclipse, in a certain sense, being not without merit or charm.

WHICH is not to suggest that I disliked it or didn’t enjoy myself—or that the audience wasn’t sufficiently pleased (if one is to gauge the true feelings of theatergoers who may or may not have been merely trying to be polite following the evening’s curtain call as opposed to, say, impolitely expressing their boundless enthusiasm)—on the contrary. Yet I have neither resigned myself to passively accepting the evening as a being only a lighthearted romantic romp nor am I perturbed at not thoroughly having been party to the transcendence of a vigorous comedic pageant. The evening was somewhat muted in that, the show, while musical and comedic, was essentially what it was: a musical-comedy with an emphasis on comedy.

THE paterfamilias of laughter is, at heart, simply, good comedy. Jokes, whether oft-told or brand new, can only be liberated from banality when the bearers of the mantle of (what may or may not be) excessive script-doctoring can disentangle themselves from the shackles of their own micro-surgical hectoring, which has handicapped so many other musical-comedies. For their part, the writers appear to have been released from those bonds and yet somewhat enslaved by convention. Some of the humor was spot-on; and at other times only satisfactory: though much of this show was good while going down. But, as with the Manhattanesque maxim concerning the consumption of Chinese food, one remains perplexed at being earnestly hungry at some point thereafter, within a period of about sixty minutes following said meal. Which, again, is not to say that I found the show anywhere near being unfunny: but, rather, to impart that I was inadequately restrained from total hilarity. And at some point afterwards, was left to contemplate the evening on the basis of a yearning for yet more enjoyment. (Similarly, I felt the same way about the score. The music, though music may be the food of love, was also the stuff of Asian kitchens and white-takeout containers, producing much the same post-consumption reaction.)

EXHALING in both sighs of wan recognition of passable humor and bursts of gut-wrenching laughter; the show is lively and spirited and exceeds the attempts of similar peregrinations on the Great White Way, which, depending on your point of view, are either (if one was to be disparaging), “persistent-vegetative” or “brain-dead” and, (if one was complimentary), say, “fantastic” or “wonderfully entertaining.” But comparisons to other shows, while sometimes inevitable, are, in this case, certainly not totally fair. This show seemingly stands on its own two feet, comfortably, if only occasionally precariously teetering like a toddler making those, now perilous, now gleeful, first attempts to walk. Which is not to suggest that this show is struggling to walk; hardly: but as one must learn to walk before attempting a marathon, so to must one complete intricate trials of endurance before becoming eligible to successfully break the tape in an exhausting race to the finish line.

Suffice to say that this show is, in a manner-of-speaking, if I may be so bold, much like the stars in the sky: be they dim or bright, wholly not unpraiseworthy. And that’s putting it mildly.

Mick Stingley is a freelance writer. He is single and lives alone in New York City. He and Céline Dion will both be 40 on March 30, 2008.

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