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LETTERS TO EDITOR
The Boys From Syracuse
I have no doubt that this woman was a genuinely enthusiastic theater goer and not a "plant " or an especially loyal relative of a cast member. I'm glad she had such a wonderful time, but I'm afraid her enchantment failed to rub off on me. Despite Richard Rodger's centennial celebration year to add a note of timeliness, and despite a score studded with songs whose very titles send them popping into your ears, this first fully staged Broadway revival since the 1938 George Abbott version is too anemic to be quite the event it should be.
The cast is big enough to avoid being tagged a chamber musical but the stage of the spacious American Airlines Theater seems, except at the very end, feels consistently underpopulated, an impression underscored by usually on the mark Thomas Lynch's okay but hardly outstanding set. And, while I don't object to rearranging songs or even sneaking in a few tunes from other Rogers & Hart vehicles, this musical snipping and pasting no more gives the show a fresh glow than Nicki Silver's jokey script.
Silver works hard to pump up the book's burlesque foundation via a door slamming toga emporium with a gay assistant (Kirk McDonald), an unnamed "guest " Wizard of Oz, as well as the already mentioned pratfall. None of this is very funny though Silver is more successful in his treatment of the identical twins whose separation and reunion drive the farcical plot. Antipholus of Ephesus (Tom Hewett) is now a puffed-up chauvinist while Antipholus of Syracuse (Jonathan Dokuchitz) is an angst-driven, timid phobic.
In case you don't recall the plot, each Antipholus is attended by half of an also identically named twin (Lee Wilkof playing Dromio of Syracuse and Chip Zien, Dromio of Ephesus). Both sets of twins have woman problems. Antipholus of Syracuse, fancying himself a macho warrier, can't tell his wife he loves her and instead visits the local ladies of the night though these courtesan encounters are all talk and no sex. While hubby's in the brothel his frustrated wife Adriana (Lauren Mitchell) mistakes him for his gentler brother who in turn falls in love with her spinster sister Luciana (Erin Dilly). There's also a sex-starved wife (Toni Dibuono) to pursue the twin slaves.
Whether written by Abbott or Silver (or David Ives in a much praised Encores! version), this story of mistaken identities is primarily the excuse for all these mixed-up Greeks to burst into songs like "Sing For Your Supper", "Falling in Love With Love", "This Can't Be Me" and "You Took Advantage of Me." The songs are indeed splendid and splendidly sung. But while the voices are all good, director Scott Ellis has done little to help any but a few members of this cast to shine in the acting as well as singing department. Erin Dilly is topnotch as Luciana and the always reliable Wilkof and Zien are perfectly paired slaves even without a trace of family resemblance. Toni DiBruono is another standout and even manages to overcome some of the overreaching business Silver has written for her.
Robert Ashford's choreography is as minimal and underwhelming as the set. There's one number that seems to be trying to recall a golden oldie Fred and Ginger scene and another that has Wilkof reprise his great "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" strut from Kiss Me Kate, but nothing ever really soars as the original Ballanchine choreography must have. The costumes by Martin Pakledinaz are more detailed and fun than either the sets or the dance sequences.
The finale does fill up the stage and create a fleeting sense of "Hurrah! Hurroo!" Overall though, the Roundabout feels like a new-fashioned budget-conscious musical more than a grand reprise of an old-fashioned extravaganza with everything glittering brightly. But don't take my word for it -- if that lady bouncing around in the seat in front of me were writing this review it would get a perfect ten rating.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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