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A CurtainUp Review

If Love Were All

Purists seeing If Love Were All will argue that Harry Groener is no Noël Coward and that the sixties' super model Twiggy is no Gertie. Right they are. Yet, there's enough good material presented by the show's two likeable stars -- one of whom is a legend in her own right -- to make it a pleasant entertainment. Sheridan Morley has even devised a "book" to provide continuity and an excuse for the tag "musical" rather than cabaret act, its theme being the long friendship between these first of this century's "Beautiful People.""

Unlike Marlene which forced audiences to sit through a non-play to hear a few songs by the actress portraying the fabled Dietrich, If Love Were All is song filled throughout. In addition to twenty of Coward's songs we also get bits and pieces from some of his best known plays. And while the Dietrich bio-drama lacked any timely reason for being, the current show coincides with the centennial of Coward 's birth. And if you think Coward has become passé, just check out the Coward web site which lists play and film revivals (including a retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art) being mounted to celebrate the man who personified the adjective debonair.

Groener who portrays Coward, is not a particularly suave or glamorous leading man, but he is a gifted song-and-dance man. He lacks the raffishness and dash that prompted Kenneth Tynan to say that he "took sophistication out of the refrigerator and put it on the hob." However, with his hair slicked back and decked out by set and costume designer Tony Walton in the requisite Cowardian smoking jackets with matching acots and white tuxedos he does convey a reasonable sense of Coward's persona. He ably and enjoyably renders such perennial crowd pleasers as "Don't Put Your Daughter On the Stage, Mrs. Worthingston "" and "Mad Dogs and Englishmen."

While Groener has the more recent Broadway credentials, co-star Twiggy probably has more box office draw. The big-eyed waif parlayed her brief but world famous modeling career into stage and screen roles -- notably in The Boy Friend (movie) and My One and Only (stage). She's still pretty and slim enough to make you wonder if she can really be forty-nine. Her dancing is hardly top caliber but she's charming and energetic. When in her best number, "I Like America" (also Tony Walton's wittiest costume) she steps into a pair of sequined and bowed red, white and blue tap dance shoes you forget any shortcomings. This is Twiggy having a wonderful time and it would be curmudgeonly not to enjoy it with her. As for her singing, it should be noted that Gertrude Lawrence wasn't exactly noted for having a powerhouse voice -- and was in fact known to sing off key.

Neither Groener or Twiggy would be first choice candidates for a revival of any of the stage and movie hits they talk about and excerpt here. These include Blithe Spirit and Brief Encounter (about which Groener/Coward quips "I wish I'd written the music to that" -- as Tom Fay, the musical director and pianist, is seen briefly behind a scrim as he plays Rachmaninoff). Yet their brief scenes add historic interest to the proceedings. Twiggy is very effective in the on stage and back stage number from Red Peppers. Its smooth transition to a torchy "Mad About the Boy" makes one wish that Sheridan Morley had managed equally seamless transitions. As it stands, the dots between production numbers are often awkward and mundane.

Tony Walton's art deco silver and black double staircase set is, like the show itself, a hybrid combining scaled down Ziegfeld follies and cabaret. Given the economics of the theater mini-musicals like this (as contrasted with small musicals, revues with six to nine performers) are likely to become a new genre like the ever proliferating one-person biodramas. Like If Love For All they're likely to do best in small Off-Broadway houses. Ideally they would be producable at more Off than On Broadway prices.

My Life With Noël Coward by Coward's long time companion and literary executors is one of the sources used for My One and Only . For our review go here . . . to get a copy go here"
If you want to preview what Twiggy's voice sounds like check out her record London Pride: Songs From The London Stage which contains the title song from this show. go here
For everything Noël Coward check out the Coward web site To join the Coward enthusiasts mailing list, "Marvelous Party" visit this page

An entertainment devised by Sheridan Morley
Directed and adapted by Leigh Lawson from the works of Noel Coward
Sound design: Domonic Sack
Choreography: Niki Harris
Musical director: Tom Fay
Lucille Lortel Theatre 121 Christopher St (212/239-6200)
Previews 5/18/99-6/09/99;opening 6/10/99.
Closing 9/05/99
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 6/08 performance

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