Little flower


Book by George Grossmith and Guy Bolton
Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by Desmond Carter and Ira Gershwin
Directed by Thomas Mills
Musical direction by Barbara Anselmi
Musicals Tonight!
MainStage at the 14th Street Y
344 E 14th St. (212/868-4444)
Equity showcase (closes Dec. 21)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Primrose originally premiered in London in 1924. Almost eight decades later, it has been presented at Musicals Tonight! It is a typical love story with a catchy Gershwin score with a typically (for Musicals Tonight!) talented cast.

The plot of Primrose follows three entwined love stories. The first is that of Freddie (Jeremy Leiner) and May (Carey Anderson). They love each other, but, alas, Freddie has been promised to Joan (Cristin Mortenson) by her father and his uncle, Sir Barnaby (Ron Lee Savin). Joan, though, falls in love with a writer of luscious love stories, Hilary (Michael Shawn Lewis). Hilary falls for Joan, too, because she is a sweet, naïve girl, unlike the ones he usually falls for. However, Sir Barnaby refuses to acquiesce, until, of course, right before the finale.

The other couple is Toby (Gavin Esham) and Pinkie (Brynn O'Malley). Toby proposes to Pinkie but wants out of it, so he employs Hilary's help, having Hilary pretend to seduce her, so Toby can walk in on them. Unfortunately, Joan walks in on them, too. But by the end Toby, too, has repented his ways, and gives into his marriage.

The show is too long for its content. There are long, superfluous spurts of dialog. The show is peppered with some clever puns, even if some are so dated they go over the modern audience's head. The best part is the Gershwin score. Although it does not contain any classics, it is still the Gershwins in their prime. The songs are melodious and harmonious with clever lyrics and perfect rhymes in only ways the Gershwins could provide.

As always, Musicals Tonight! gathered a plethora of talented performers. The ensemble (which at times felt right out of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta) blended nicely and had a charming chemistry. The standout performer in this show was Brynn O'Malley as Pinkie. O'Malley was in character every second she was on stage. Additionally, she had a powerful, nicely mixed tone and dynamic energy. Finally, she had great facial expressions and a good sense of what to do with her eyebrows.

Primrose was directed and choreographed by Musicals Tonight!'s staple director, Thomas Mills. As always, his clever use of the script binders was apparent, as well as his knack for using the space well and keeping the pacing up. The costumes were colorful. The minimal set was adequate.

This was a chance to see a Gershwin show that may never get presented again, put on by a capable cast and creative team.

  Box Score:

Book: 1 Music: 2 Lyrics: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Seth Bisen-Hersh