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A CurtainUp Review
The book by Jennifer Robbins has been slimmed down and updated after a development path of readings, workshops and a full production at New Jersey's American Theatre Group. What remains is 80 minutes of music, warmth and humor, always the heart of a sentimental musical comedy.
Directed and choreographed by Bill Castellino ( Cagney ), Little Harry (David Spadora) works in his father's Italian restaurant, Cudicini's, a traditional family trattoria run by his father, Big Harry (Lenny Wolpe). Big Harry is domineering but has a loving heart. He knows what is best for his son, which is to make sure Cudicini's survives in this competitive, eclectic neighborhood.
The problem is that Little Harry, loves to cook but wants to be a chef "with real training." Andso he recently applied for a job as sous-chef at Felidia, owned by with popular restaurateur Lidia Bastianich. ("Lidia, my inspiration, my muse, my life"). As he waits for her response, he can't find the time and temerity to tell his father and surely break his heart.
Meanwhile, Morgan Cowling as Sherri lives and works uptown with her chic overbearing parent, Francine (Robin Skye). About to get married, Sherri and her mother are shopping for a wedding gown at a chic boutique in the East Village, when Sherri learns that her fiance is betraying her. The engagement is off and both doting mother's and disappointed daughter's hearts are broken.
Wandering alone and depressed, Sherri runs into Harry. In record time, they muse about their problems, make a dinner date, dine, have sex and get engaged — unarguably one of the briefest courtships in musical theater history. Their engagement is also abbreviated when the parents get over-involved and old controlling habits kick in.
Music by Dan Martin and lyrics by Michael Biello help drive this sketchy plot and define the four characters with Martin's mostly catchy melodies and Biello's straightforward lyrics. Accompanying the four leads is comic relief by three Village Voices (Ben Chavez, Jesse Manocherian and Claire Saunders). They set the scheme with "A New Day," later reprised twice with new lyrics.
One galloping tune is "Nonnina's Biscotti," nailing down Sherri and Big Harry's frenetic money-making plan to market grandma's biscuits. The deadline marriage age of "Thirty" is emphasized by Francine, Big Harry, Sherri and the Village Voice, voicing the dire consequences of Sherry's "aging" eggs—"Faded, dehydrated, dissipated, disappearing, rotting rancid, spoiled, hard boiled, frying, dying, mummifying." Little Harry and Sherri join for a duet, "You Opened a Door," bringing hopefulness to the problematic romance.
The Village Voices serve as singing, dancing, comedic narrators, bringing creative verve to the traditional book and characters. At the top of the show, they reveal that the audience can see and hear them but the Village people cannot. Delivering asides to the audience, adding generous lyrical "Ooohs" and "Aaahs," (a little of that goes a long way), and inserting comic snippets and nutty tomfoolery keeps them returning front and center.
The four talented leads are natural and believable. Likable David Spadora is unassuming as Little Harry and Morgan Cowling, is a more assured Sherri. They make a cute couple. Each sings with dramatic and comedic flair. Wolpe ( Bullets Over Broadway ) brings understanding and humor to the complexity of Big Harry and Robin Skye ( Parade ) neatly portrays a mix of self-centered and doting mother.
Thanks to Tyler M. Holland, quick-change costumes for every frisky new appearance, the Village Voices pop in as angels, waiters, an Italian grandmother. Sherri is dressed in colorful mod and Francine is casual chic. Jim Morgan designed a flexible set with detailed picturesque cartoon sets illuminated by Paul Miller's lighting design. With sound by Julian Evans, pianist and conductor Eric Svejcar provides fine music direction with Mercedes Beckman on flute and clarinet and Robin Burdulis on percussion.
Marry Harry is a of fast-moving "mangia bene" ("eat well") of simple laughs and charm.
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Book: Jennifer Robbins
Music and Lyrics: Dan Martin and Michael Biello
Director/Choreographer: Bill Castellino
Music Director: Eric Svejcar
Cast: Ben Chavez, Morgan Cowling, Jesse Manocherian, Claire Saunders, Robin Skye, David Spadora, and Lenny Wolpe.
Set Design: James Morgan
Costume Design: Tyler Holland
Lighting Design: Paul Miller
Production Stage Manager: Bethany Ellen Clark
Stage Manager: Shanna Allison
Running Time: 80 minutes. No intermission
Theatre: The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter's(619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street)
Tickets: $67.50 - $72.50. (212) 935-5820. www.yorktheatre.org Performances: Tues. & Wed. at 7:00 pm., Thurs. at 2:30 pm., Fri. at 8:00 pm., Sat. at 2:30 pm. & 8:00 pm., Sun. at 2:30 pm. (Audience discussion follows the matinee performance.)
Previews: 4/25/17. Opens: 05/4/17. Closes: 05/21/17
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 05/03/17
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