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Encores! Pipe Dream
It takes all kinds of people to make up a world,
All kinds of people and things.
They crawl on the earth,
They swim in the sea,
And they fly through the sky on wings.
All kinds of people and things,
And brother, I'll tell you my hunch:
Whether you like them
Or whether you don't,
You're stuck with the whole damn bunch!
— "It Takes All Kinds of People."
Would it be a pipe dream to expect Rodgers and Hammerstein's only flop, Pipe Dream, to attain high Broadway revival potential? The answer is yes. For that, Oscar Hammerstein's libretto based on John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, the sequel he wrote to make it more suitable for a musical, would need a complete book overhaul.
(Photo credit: Ari Mintz)
But now that the Encores! concert treatment has been applied, the lovely score and fun elements come off to best effect. The book is forever so-so, but as Encored at City Center, the show's musical strength and fun elements are maximized, and the weaknesses of the book are minimized.
For starters David Ives has obviously streamlined and tweaked the story so that it clocks in at a crisp 2 hours. Then there's the top to bottom superb cast. Will Chase, who's gained national prominence as part of the new TV musical Smash, is smashing as Doc, the marine biologist romantic lead. Oscar Hammerstein, who was never comfortable with a show about prostitutes, would be happy with Laura Osnes, last seen on Broadway as the murderous Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde more a prickly homeless girl than a hooker. The always excellent Tom Wopat does not disappoint as Doc's pal Mac. To lead them and the rest of the dynamic ensemble, there's the wonderful Leslie Uggams as the waterfront flop house Madam Fauna instead of an opera star as was the case in 1955 when diva Helen Traubel was cast — or I should say, miscast.
To further enhance the visual pleasures of this production, there's some snazzy choreography by Kelli Barclay and the on the mark costumes by Toni-Leslie James. Of course in this day or reduced orchestras, often not even in the same venue as the performance, there's the thrill of a big orchestra, in this case expertly and energetically led by Encores! Music Director Rob Berman. It was the start-up view of the full-sized orchestra that contributed to the long-running success of Lincoln Center's revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Speaking of that H&R super hit, several Pipe Dream numbers reflect the songwriting duo's better known tunes (e.g. Chase's beautiful rendition of "The Man I Used to Be " and Philip Hernandez and the Flophouse Gang's "Bum's Opera"). What's more, the choreography and overall sensibility of the production numbers featuring Doc's waterfront pals as well as Fauna and her hookers now seem almost more like South Pacific's sailors and nurses than Steinbeck's less attuned to Hammerstein's comfort zone characters.
While Encores! concert productions allow the actors to perform with scripts in hand, the Pipe Dream cast has dialogue and lyrics down pat. As always, this is an all too limited run, but if you don't manage to catch one of the remaining performances, the good news is that a live recording is being made and will be available from Ghostlight Records this summer.
Lyrics and Book by: Oscar Hammerstein II
Music by: Richard Rodgers
Based on the novels “Cannery Row” and “Sweet Thursday” by John Steinbeck
Directed by Marc Bruni
Cast: Will Chase (Doc), James Clow (Ray Busch), Philip Hernández (Joe), James Moye (Jim Blaikey), Laura Osnes (Suzy), Steve Routman (George Herman), Leslie Uggams (Fauna), Stephen Wallem (Hazel) and Tom Wopat (Mac).
Music director: Rob Berman
Choreographer: Kelli Barclay
Sets by John Lee Beatty
Costumes: Toni-Leslie James
Lighting: Ken Billington
Sound: Scott Lehrer
Concert adaptation: David Ives
Music coordinator: Seymour Red Press
Orchestrations: Robert Russell Bennett
Dance arrangements: John Morris
Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes with intermission
From 3/28/12; closing 4/01/12
Wednesday at 7:30pm, Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, Sunday at 2pm and 7pm
New York City Center 130 West 56th Street CityTix: (212) 581-1212
Tickets: $25 - $100
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer March 29th press performance
- All Kinds of People /Doc
- The Tide Pool/ Doc, Hazel, and Mac, to Suzy
- Everybody’s Got A Home But Me /Suzy
- A Lopsided Bus/ Mac, Hazel, Kitty, Sonya, and
The Flophouse Gang
Bums’ Opera /Fauna, Joe, Pancho, and The Flophouse Gang
- The Man I Used To Be /Doc and his “former self”
- Sweet Thursday/Fauna
- Suzy Is A Good Thing /Fauna and Suzy
- All At Once You Love Her /Doc, Suzy and Esteban
The Happiest House on the Block//Fauna and Girls
- The Party That We’re Going To Have Tomorrow Night/
Mac and the People of Cannery Row
- Will You Marry Me?/Suzy, Fauna and Doc
- Thinkin’/ Hazel
- All At Once You Love Her (Reprise)/Fauna
- How Long?/ Fauna, Doc, Flophouse Boys
And Bear Flag Girls
- The Next Time It Happens/Suzy and Doc
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