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A CurtainUp Review
Make Mine Manhattan
In 1948, an unpretentious musical revue, Make Mine Manhattan, featuring a young Sid Caesar, cheered audience for over a year at the Broadhurst Theater. Now at the Connelly Theater, the Unsung Musicals revival of Make Mine Manhattan, boasts no fast-talking Sid Caesar and after 65 years, you might easily call it dated. Yet, like the original, this production spotlights a certain cheer with an energetic singing/dancing/comedic young cast of eight performing amusing songs and skits about the “good old days.” That was when apartments were cheap, couples roamed comfortably through Central Park on Saturday nights and English-speaking cabdrivers doled out down-to-earth advice. The songs were straightforward, topical and they rhymed. Just hear the opening song claiming, “A cup of coffee cost a dime/ even subways run on time.”
It’s a nice place to visit. . .but I wouldn’t want to live there!— Boy Four
Well, here’s the thing: six million only slightly lunatic people do live here. And more of us keep arriving every day. By plane, by car, by boat. . .And we keep coming. You can?t stop us. Sure, its a nuthouse. And everybody knocks the place: they were insulted by a cab driver, or a waiter, they sat behind a pillar at the theatre for $25 a ticket. But it’s the big time, and there’s nowhere else like it. It’s got museums, the shops, big business, small business, galleries. . ..the theatre! —Boy One
The word “dated” might well have applied to the original Make Mine Manhattan that referred back to earlier revues like The Garrick Gaieties and The Music Box Revues, which were wildly popular in the 1920’s. The former showcased the songs of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, while Music Box Revues performed Irving Berlin’s music. Make Mine Manhattan, originally called A Nice Place To Visit, features lyrics and skits by Arnold B. Horwitt and music by Richard Lewine. Helmed by Unsung Musicals Director, Ben West, the revue is kept snappy and cheery despite its restoration of some previously discarded dialogue and songs.
Some tunes earn laughs because they are so outlandishly out of date. There is the “An Old Fashioned Girl” sung by a young out-of-towner (Nicolas Dromard) who is set up for a date with a “real New York showgirl” named Fifi (LaQuet Sharnell). Unfortunately, Fifi turns out to be a protester and uninterested in him. What the poor guy had in mind was an old-school type “like the kind that went out with Pa,” and “a lovable mouse who’d enjoy playing house.” “An Old Fashioned Girl” is a cute song, earnestly sung but without the musical charm of a song with a similar theme, “The Girl That I Marry” from Annie Get Your Gun.
Besides Nicolas Dromard, the cast includes Nadine Isenegger, Dennis O’Bannion, Greg Reuter, Gabrielle Ruiz, LaQuet Sharnell, Bret Shuford, Kristen J. Smith. No cast member is given a name. They take on the different personalities in a lineup of sketches. While the company is talented in singing, dancing and comedy, there is no strong standout. Yet, one can sense the power a talent like Sid Caesar had in this show and that was apparent to Max Liebman who later directed the comic in TV’s landmark, Your Show of Shows.
The success of a show like this depends on how forcefully the singers project their songs, selling them with personality. Here, most do not project their voices in any commanding way. We miss most of Gabrielle Ruiz’s comic lyrics in “My Brudder and Me.” On the plus side, Dromard is a sharp dancer and delivers his tunes with smooth persuasiveness and Sharnell sings a dreamy, amusing salute to a glamorous, “Movie House in Manhattan.” She brings a potent belt and humor to “Schrafft’s,” where your meal will fill a hummingbird and all the dishes taste the same—cloyingly sweet. However, as hard as she belts the torchy, “Please Take It Back,” she misses the chance to inject believable emotion.
Bret Shuford and Kristen J. Smith are likeable as they gracefully trace the path of young romance. One of the best tunes, “Subway Song,” is Shuford’s tale of woe, humorously relevant to strap-hangers even today. Affably, he puts across the problems of a Bronx boy from 242nd Street dating a Brooklyn girl living on New Lots Avenue. “Glad to Be Back” is an effective closer by the company.
Rommy Sandhu's frothy dances are performed with style and the costumes by Martin T. Lopez are well suited for the 1940’s. However, there were no seams in the women’s stockings and nylon stockings always had seams in those good old days. Fran Minark and Christopher Lengerich play vigorous piano accompaniment and the revue flow is snappy.
Make Mine Manhattan is a heartfelt Valentine to Manhattan. but it is Manhattan of 65 years ago. Those were the good old days and everything has changed —including the audience.
Make Mine Manhattan
Skits and Lyrics by Arnold Horwitt
Directed by Ben West
Cast: Nicolas Dromard, Nadine Isenegger, Dennis O’Bannion, Greg Reuter, Gabrielle Ruiz, LaQuet Sharnell, Bret Shuford, Kristen J. Smith
Music: Richard Lewine
Choreography: Rommy Sandhu
Musical Direction and arrangements: Fran Minarik
Piano: Christopher Lengerich and Fran Minarik
Lighting Design: Joe Hodge
CostumeDesign: Martin T. Lopez
Running Time: 1 hours, 15 min. No intermission
Theater: The Connelly Theatre, 220 East 4th St.
Tickets: $18. SmartTix.com or phone (212) 868-4444. UnsungMusicals.org.
Performances: Wed, Thurs.,Fri., Sat.at 7:30PM. Sat. and Sun. matinees 2pm.
Opens: 3/1/12. Closes 3/17/12.
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 3/3/12
Sketches and Musical Numbers
“Anything Can Happen in New York”: Nicolas Dromard and Company
“My Brudder and Me”: Gabrielle Ruiz and Dennis O’Bannion
Stage Door Fifi: Company
“Old Fashioned Girl”: Nicolas Dromard
“Manhattan in the Spring”: Nadine, Isenegger, Gabrielle Ruiz, Kristen J. Smith
Hollywood Heads East: Company
“Movie House in Manhattan”: LaQuet Sharnell
“I Don’t Know His Name”: Kristen J. Smith and Bret Shuford
“Talk to Me”: Greg Reuter and LaQuet Sharnell
Tourists Monologue: Nicolas Dromard
“Anything Can Happen in New York” reprise: Nicolas Dromard, Nadine Isenegger, Kristen J. Smith
“Subway Song”: Bret Shuford
“Gentleman Friend”: Kristen J. Smith and Bret Shuford
“Saturday Night in Central Park”: Nadine, Isenegger, Dennis O’Bannion and Company
“Schrafft?s”: LaQuet Sharnell
“New York Gal”: Gabrielle Ruiz
“I Gotta Have You”: Nicolas Dromard and Gabrielle Ruiz
“I Fell in Love With You”: Kristen J. Smith and Bret Shuford
Any Resemblance: Greg Reuter, Gabrielle Ruiz, Bret Shuford
“Anything Can Happen in New York”: Greg Reuter, Gabrielle Ruiz, Bret Shuford
Neighbors Monologue: Nicolas Dromard
“Please Take It Back”: LaQuet Sharnell
“Good Old Days”: Nicolas Dromard. Dennis O’Bannion, Bret Shuford
“Glad to Be Back”: Company
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