Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Promises, Promises"

Promises, Promises
Music by Burt Bacharach; Lyrics by Hal David; Book by Neil Simon
SF Playhouse

Catching this show near the end of its 8+-week run and having seen the excellent, recent Broadway revival (2010-11) with Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth (among others), I was both excited and skeptical as the show began.  This 1968 musical about a ambitious insurance junior executive who rises up the ladder by allowing his married superiors to bring their 'dates' to his apartment, all the while desperate to fall in love himself, is quite dated in many ways (the somewhat sexist plot and portrayal of women, Bacharach's elevator-like music, the mini-skirted chorus of oo-ers and ah-ers who magically appear  every time a song begins).  The 2010 Broadway revival somehow soared above the silliness and blandness of the ho-hum book and score through its outstanding cast, the superior set, and the fast-paced direction (as well as the addition of a couple of Bacharach gems not in the original).  As much as I usually admire SF Playhouse's ability to bring Broadway 'tried-and-true' musicals to their smaller stage and to add elements of their own invention that result in a new and often better interpretation, I did not think this time the translation occurred in this particular production (now closed).

 Jeffrey Brian Adams as the aspiring Chuck Baxter brought a naiveté and clumsiness that really worked most of the time as well as an ability to pull off his vocals with panache.  Corinne Proctor as Marge pretty much stole the show with her featured appearance as the drunk pick-up by a despondent Chuck.  Everyone else was 'ok' but no one was a 'wow.'  The chorus sometimes became, in this production, annoying and distractive.  Their background support music took too much of center stage and too often drew attention away from the main action -- partly because the three cast did not really look and move like a 'unit.'   Compared to the Broadway production, the smaller numbers on stage for the minor parts (secretaries, executives, chorus, etc.) made the stage seem empty at times and wanting more.  The energy level ebbed and flowed.  The orchestra blasted at times (especially the trumpet) instead of blended.  The movement of the many different scenes was largely done by hand and seemed to slow things down a bit too much (although the projections used to show different sets, movement of the elevator between floors, and street scenes were excellent).

In the end, this was a good, solid production but just was not the great one that I have come to expect of SF Playhouse.

Rating: 3 E's

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