Jubilee originally opened in 1935; almost seven decades later, Musicals Tonight! presented the show as the opener of its new season in its new Midtown location. The show was charming and witty, if quite long (almost three hours).
The plot of Jubilee revolves around a royal family; it is one week before the annual jubilee, and preparations are underway. The young Prince Peter (Raymond Baynard) and his cousin Prince Rudolph (Michael I. Walker) decide they would like to go to see Radio City Music Hall; thus, they fake a threat to the family demanding they abandon the castle or else. Thinking revolutionaries are threatening to overthrow the throne, the family is ordered by the Prime Minister (Michael Shane Ellis) to go to their getaway at Feathermore Castle.
The family has other plans. They have been longing to live like normal people, and decide to pretend to be the Smiths. All four go on adventures to do things they have always wanted to do: the King (Ed Schiff) practices his rope trick in the municipal park and meets socialite Eva (Cynthia Collins), who asks him to perform at her big party. The Queen (Patti Perkins) goes to view an American movie star, Mowgli (Sebastian La Cause), and he gives her swimming lessons. The Princess (Melissa Lone) falls in love with the renowned playwright, Eric Dare (Justin Sayre). Finally, the Prince (Keith Gerchak) becomes enamored with a singer, Karen (Leslie Ann Hendricks).
Chaos ensues when it is discovered they are missing, and they are forced to Feathermore, where they are found. However, they decide to abdicate and escape with their new friends, and more chaos ensues. When it is revealed that the young Prince and nephew staged the warning of revolution, the royal family reluctantly return to the palace and give up their new lives.
The show had a slow start, but soon picked up. The dialog is amusing and entertaining for the most part, although there was a lot of extraneous chatter. The show might be long, but it usually entertained, and the pace was mostly fluid and fast. This is one of Porter’s stronger scores, if not his strongest. It features his wit at his best; there are incessant rhymes, and a lot of them are clever rhymes with contemporaries of the day ("Roosevelt" and "felt"; "able" and "Gable"). The score is hummable and fun as well. The highlights include the luscious ballad "Why Shouldn’t I," the Gilbert and Sullivan-like patter song "The Kling-Kling Bird," the operatic "When Loves Come Your Way," the quaint "A Picture of Me Without You," and the standards "Begin the Beguine" and "Just One of Those Things."
The actors were well-trained and talented. The singing was beautifully blended. The standouts included the following: Patti Perkins was a regal queen with a powerful belt; Sebastian La Cause was a macho but sensitive movie star; Justin Sayre had a charming and effervescent tenor; and Melissa Lone possessed a versatile singing palette, switching from belt to mix to head with ease.
Thomas Mills’s direction and choreography were impressive, as usual, if a bit routine. The staging never felt cramped even though the stage was half the size of the old venue. There was some diversity in the choreography, and there was clever use of the binders (which the actors read their lines from, since they have little rehearsal time). Stan Perlman’s scenic design included artistic placards to denote each scene change.
Overall, Jubilee was indeed a jubilee. It is always a pleasure to see how far the American musical has come. Musicals Tonight! continues to present revivals with top-notch talent.
Book: 1/Music: 2/Lyrics: 2
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Copyright 2004 Seth Bisen-Hersh