Naughty weekend

Gay Divorce

Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Dwight Taylor
Directed by Thomas Mills
Musical direction by Barbara Anselmi
Musicals Tonight!
Equity showcase (closes Mar. 28)
MainStage at The 14th Street Y
344 E14th. St (; 212/868-4444)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Gay Divorce opened originally in November of 1932. Over 70 years later it was presented with some added material by a talented cast, in a charming production of an overly dated musical, which would otherwise never have gotten a revival if not for Musicals Tonight!.

The story follows Mimi Pratt (Stephanie Lynge)'s attempt to get a divorce. She has fallen in love with an American romance writer, Guy Holden (Paul Castree), and the only way she thinks she can get out of her loveless marriage is by staging an affair with a professional co-respondent (Jedidiah Cohen). Guy's best friend, Egbert (Tom Sellwood), just happens to be the lawyer Mimi hires to set up the affair. Thus, Guy follows him to the seaside hotel, and when he runs into Mimi, conflicts arise as Mimi tries to hide the fact that she is married and is about to stage an affair.

The show does not seem to have many songs -- and some are sadly short. They are the highlight because Cole Porter's wit is timeless -- who else could rhyme asininity with virginity? The best-known song is "Night and Day," which lingered in the head for hours after the show. The book has funny moments and some clever puns, but is incredibly long-winded for a show with such a banal plot.

The cast was outstanding, as always with Musicals Tonight! productions. The leads fared well, but the supporting cast stood out the most. Jedidiah Cohen was hilarious as the Italian co-respondent, Tonetti. He made the most of his two songs -- he garnered laughs, while having a beautiful, rich tenor. Cathy Newman also stood out as Hortense, Mimi's skeptical friend. She performed her numbers with charisma and vigor.

Thomas Mills's direction and choreography were on the money, as usual. There were some truly lovely moments created by his innovative binder use (the actors carried binders so they didn't have to memorize their lines). The show's pacing and energy were right-on. Finally, Barbara Anselmi's musical direction and vocal arrangements were luscious -- the harmonies at the finale are written especially well.

Overall, The Gay Divorce was an enjoyable romp to the past. Few things can compare to a Cole Porter score.

  Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2004 Seth Bisen-Hersh