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Going Places In the Berkshires
CurtainUp Reviews
Good Company--Songs That Made It From Shows That Didn't

This cabaret-act-into-stage-revue arrived at the Berkshire Theatre Festival's Main Stage with hefty assets to protect it from becoming a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy of its title. To be specific. . .

At first blush, all the above smacks of the potential to deliver the "delightful evening" artistic director Arthur Storch promised in his opening remarks. And it does have its moments as in some of the ensemble numbers especially "Triplets" from Between The Devil by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz when three members of the ensemble switch from the costumes worn during most of the evening into character costumes. Which brings me to some of the reasons why this revue ends up missing so many beats that it feels more like a flop than hit.

I liked the costuming and staging of the above-mentioned "Triplets" number and also the ensemble's final behind-the-curtain tableau. Otherwise, however, the very attractive performers are dressed in costumes (by Laura Crow) that are downright unattractive and their many and frequently awkward entrances and exits made you yearn for the elegant simplicity that's the hallmark of a good cabaret performance. Matters aren't helped by Karen Azenberg's choreography and the fact that the performers are skilled singers but less adept as dancers.

Unfortunately, there are other reasons this revue never really sizzles.

The thematic thread used by Harnick to weave the work of so many musical voices into a cohesive musical retrospective is a simple one: Failure is universal experience from which most of us including those involved with Broadway flops bounce back. True enough, but more than a little wearying when applied with a trowel as it is in this show. Consequently the wit and incisive portraiture of the Hirschfeld set panels instead of enhancing Good Company serve as proof positive that a picture--especially a Hirschfeld picture--speaks more powerfully than 35 songs connected by nothing but this thread of isolated bits of stardust rising from the ashes of failed musicals. Another disconcerting element, the noisy and somewhat clumsy movement of the panel sets, can probably be fixed before the show ends its run.

For a musical retrospective like this to really work, the songs need to be connected by a strong musical voice. Smokey Joe's Cafe for all its shortcomings, was unified by the sound of Stoller and Leiber. When the World Goes Round was all Kander and Ebb. Director Michael Montel and musical arranger Fred Wells ' previous involvement with a cabaret-into-musical revue, A Grand Night for Singing also focused on a single musical sound (Rogers and Hammerstein). The recent Johnny Mercer Musical (Dream) did have a lot of different composers but Mercer's unique lyrics made for strong glue, (though, alas, not enough to compensate for problems in other areas of that short-lived show).

To sum it all up, Good Company, is a good idea stretched beyond its limits. The idea of honoring good songs from not so good shows is a grand idea for a one hour cabaret. I hope the BTF takes the show's message to heart and bounces back with a hit next time. Its Unicorn Theater has already taken a step in that direction with its tribute to Thornton Wilder (Wilder, Wilder. . . ) ©right July 1997, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.

Songs That Made It From Shows That Didn't
Written by Sheldon Harnick Directed by Michael Montel
Featuring Lewis Cleale, Patti Cohenour, Kathy Fitzgerald, Sheryl McCallum and Michael McGrath.
Berkshire Theatre Festival
Stockbridge MA, (413) 298-5536
7/09/97-7/19/97 (opening, 6/20)

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