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A CurtainUp Review
The Boys From Syracuse
If it was good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for you
--- two ensemble members introducing the " new" The Boys From Syracuse -- a new book by Nicki Silver based on George Abbott's 1938 book, based (very loosely so!) on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, which was in turn borrowed from the Roman playwright Plautus.
Jonathan Dokuchitz and Erin Dilly
(Photo: Joan Marcus )
While watching the Roundabout's newly scripted revival of The Boys From Syracuse, I found my eyes often straying to a woman of uncertain vintage sitting directly in front of me. Her enjoyment was evident in her frequent appreciative guffaws and nudging the friend sitting next to her to make sure she "got" Nicki Silver's gags. She clearly thought the bumping and grinding courtesans and a pratfall that sends one of the characters flying into the orchestra pit the cat's meow. Needless to say, she swayed ecstatically in her seat during every song. When the double twin mix-up was finally straightened out (Silver has changed the dialogue and siblings' character traits but adhered to the plot of George Abbott's 1938 book), the lady popped out of her seat and sashayed down the aisle acting as cheerleader for the audience to join her ecstatic applause and "bravos."

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.

The Boys Fron Syracuse
Original Book by George Abbott, loosely based on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors
New Book: Nicki Silver
Music: Richard Rodgers
Lyrics: Lorenz Hart Director:Scott Ellis
Choreographer: Rob Ashford
Cast: Jeffrey Broadhurst (Angelo),Walter Charles (Aegean), Erin Dilly as Luciana, Lisa Datz (Luciana), Toni DiBuono (Luce), Jonathan Dokuchitz (Antipholus from Syracuse) Tom Galantich (Merchant, Aegean), Sara Gettlefinger (Courtesan, Ensemble), Deidre Goodwin (Courtesan, Ensemble), Milena Govich (Courtesan, Ensemble), George Hall (Sorcerer), Teri Hanson (Courtesan, Ensemble), Tripp Hanson (Ensemble), Jackee Harry (Madam), Tom Hewitt (Antipholus from Ephesus), Fred Inkley (Sergeant), Mark Lotito (Tailor, Ensemble), Kirk McDonald (Ensemble), Elizabeth Mills (Courtesan, Ensemble), Lauren Mitchell (Adriana), J.C. Montgomery (Duke, Ensemble), Scott Robertson (Merchant, Ensemble), Allyson Turner (Ensemble), Lee Wilkof (Dromio from Syracuse) and Chip Zien (Dromio from Ephesus).
Set Design: Thomas Lynch
Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Fight Director: Rick Sordelet
Orchestrator: Don Sebesky
Music Director: David Loud
Associate Conductor: Ethyl Wilt
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Violins--Paul Woodier, Ella Rutkovsky, Liuh-Wen Ting; Reeds--Eddle Satkin, Jonathan Levine, Andrew Stetman, Mark Thrasher; Trumpets--Jon Owens, Matt Peterson; Trombone--Charles Gordon; French Horn--R.J. Keffey; Bass--Brian Cassier; Drums/Percussion--Bruce Doctor; Keyboard--Ethyl Wilt
Running time: 2 hours, including one intermission
Roundabout Theatre Company at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St, 212-719-1300 or box office.
7/24/02-10/20 /02; opening August 18th.
Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00PM, with a Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2:00PM
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on performance.
Musical Numbers
Act One

  • Hurrah! Hurroo! (I Had Twins)/Sergeant, Duke, Aegean, Crowd
  • Dear Old Syracuse/Antipholus and Oromio of Syracuse
  • What Can You Do with a Man/Luce and Dromio of Ephesus
  • Falling in Love with Love/Adriana
  • A Lady Must Live/The Courtesans
  • The Shortest Day of the Year/Antipholus of Ephesus and Arfiana
  • This Must Be Love/Antipholus of Syracuse and Luciana
Act Two

  • Entra'acte/Orchestra
  • Prologue: You Took Advantage of Me/The Courtesans
  • He and She/Luce and Dromio of Syracuse
  • You Have Cast Your Shadow on the Sea/Antipholus of Syracuse
  • Hi Brother/Dromios of Ephesus and Syracuse
  • Come with Me/.Sergeant and Policemen
  • Oh, Diogenes!/Adriana, Luciana, and Luce
  • Hurrah! Hurroo (reprise)(Sing for Your Supper/Madam, Courtesans, Luce, Adriana,Luciana, and The Crowd
  • This Can't Be Love (reprise)/The Company

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