The St. Bart's Players lit up the stage in this enjoyable revival of Moss Hart's show-business saga. Hart's delightful, although now somewhat dated, classic is full of bigger-than-life characters based on the author's Broadway colleagues of 50 years ago, when backstage antics were often even more interesting than what was happening on stage.
A delightful pre-show of period music, as different characters went about their business on stage, set a mood of merriment that was sustained throughout the performance. The exquisite Ritz-Carlton hotel suite where Irene and her entourage are staying (designed by Carlos Doria in vivid turquoise and fuschia) exemplified the lavish lifestyles of its occupants. Doria's attention to detail was evident in his props, such as a gorgeous silver phone and a wonderful old manual typewriter. The set's opulence was enhanced by Robert Tatum's lighting.
First-time playwright Peter Sloan's (Ken Altman) avant-garde work (i.e., no one involved in the production knows what it's about) is being produced in Boston in a pre-Broadway tryout, with hilarious consequences. The fact that the immensely successful Oklahoma is debuting at the same time doesn't help matters. (Strains of music from Oklahoma, as well as hits from another commercial blockbuster of the period, Annie Get Your Gun, were played throughout the show, adding to the fun.) Broadway star Irene Livingston (Barbara Blomberg) and director Carleton Fitzgerald (Robert Berger) have lent their talents to the production, and business tycoon Sidney Black (Jim Mullins) and his wife, Frances (Tracey Altman), have lent their financial support.
Director Brian Feehan assembled an attractive and immensely likable group of actors, and never let the energy level drop.
Barbara Blomberg handled the role of glamorous Broadway star Irene Livingston with just the right balance of humor, hauteur, and neurosis. Robert Berger was ideal as self-absorbed, fatuous director Carleton Fitzgerald, with unmistakable style -from his meticulously trimmed moustache to that "3 AM voice." Jim Mullins brought empathy to the role of moneyman Sidney Black, in a role that could have slipped into blustery caricature in the hands of a less-skilled actor. Black's craving for social acceptance for more than just his money was beautifully played. Tracey Altman was all bubble-brained charm as Frances, Sidney's beautiful but culturally challenged young wife, who has amassed a fortune of her own as an ice-skating star.Ulises Giberga offered an elegantly restrained performance as the world-weary but kind veteran playwright, Owen Turner.
Julie Hansen was the epitome of 1940s career-girl cool practicality as Nan Lowell, the ghostwriter of Irene's autobiography. Hansen had a particularly good grasp of the period, from her no-nonsense walk to her speech inflections. Talented Kevin Gooley made the most of the thankless role of Irene's stockbroker husband, Tyler Rathburn, in an intelligently focused performance emphasizing Tyler's kindness and easygoing nature amid a sea of chaos.
Television veteran Jean Frances gave a tour-de-force performance as Irene's irresistibly tart-tongued mother, Stella. Robert Goddard brought unbridled energy to his uproarious portrayal of Shriner William H. Gallegher. He also appeared briefly as Irene's effeminate masseur and as a policeman. Ken Altman gave an appealing performance as the young playwright Peter Sloan, whose faith in his play is shaken by the frivolousness and lack of support of his self-absorbed colleagues.
Lorena Gomez's luscious costumes were not particularly
flattering to the actresses. The men were all in desperate need
of some pancake makeup. They looked pasty and clammy under the
lights and amid the bright colors of the set.
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Copyright 1999 Julie Halpern