“I Married an Angel” the 1938 musical romantic comedy by Rodgers & Hart opened at 42nd Street Moon last night, with, as the cast sings, a twinkle in your eye. It’s a breezy, light-hearted old fashioned piece originating at the end of the Great Depression, after the roaring twenties, the exuberant and life affirming era after World War I ended in 1918. Each member of the dancing, singing, wise-cracking cast projects tons of character and personality and could star on their own. Nevertheless, tall, dark, blue-eyed and handsome Sean Thompson stars as a playboy banker of high society, Count Willy Palaffi, whose laments are heard on high and answered by a pure and innocent angel who descends to Earth to marry him.
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Picture Gavin Newsom with Crissie Snow from “Three’s Company” but without the laugh or snort and looking like the Ivory Snow baby Brook Shields, only petite not six feet. Oh, if only our beloved former mayor could sing or dance like Fred Astaire. While the dialogue of the piece may seem a bit too dated or cutesy in Act I, the personalities gel and clash and gather momentum throughout especially in Act II. It’s another feel-good success for 42nd Street Moon following “It’s a Bird . . . It’s a Plane . . . It’s Superman!”--marriage to somebody from the Heavens to a mortal.
Zack Thomas Wilde choreographs; Nathaniel Rothrock
Zack Thomas Wilde created original soft shoe and tap numbers from comic waltzing to a Roxy Theater chorus line. Wilde said there isn’t much in the way of historic choreography for the piece to use so he used Youtube references of classic dancers from the era, namely Fred Astaire. The opening party scene sets the comedic and rivalrous tone, where there’s only one male partner and the ladies vie for a slot on his dance card. That’s everybody trying to turn the head of Peter Mueller played by Nathaniel Rothrock, who plays the banker’s look alike secretary and comrade complete with tan suit and gelled black hair. Gavin would be proud.
Lovely Kari Yancy plays the ditzy newlywed who’s brutal honesty shocks the wealthy of Budapest who plot to ruin their banker friend with a run on his bank. “It’s all up to you” her desperate husband pleads with her as he fends off the impending run on his bank by his party guests, knowing Angel means well even though things go comedically awry. Yancy flits about like a ballet dancer on pointe, light as air, floating on a cloud.
Director Greg MacKellan’s delightful cast includes dance captain Halsey Varady as the feisty Anna Murphy, a liberated former convent resident who prayed to Bergdorf Goodman and J.P. Morgan. Varady, a quick-study like many in the profession, though not a dancer technically, says with a twinkle in her eye that she rose to the occasion. The Bay Area native held the audience spellbound with her show stopping tap numbers particularly the raucous Roxy Theater party scene. Anna Murphy is a scheming independent girl ready to take on high society and find herself a rich husband who won’t just take her down the garden path that invariably leads to the bedroom. She’s a petite red head with porcelain skin and endless energy.
The angels/socialites Ruggiero, Simmons, Stetson, Stewart-Davis
The cast includes the chorus of females as these Broadway revivals often do and it’s a trademark and highlight of the production. Angel’s sisters descend from Heaven when she summons them for help with her marriage to the mortal man. Elena Ruggiero (Seronella), Abby Simmons (Arabella), Megan Stetson (Clarinda) and Victoria Stewart-Davis (Lucinda) play double roles as plotting high eschelon socialites or fair weather friends; and angels.
Allison F. Rich, Bill Fahrner
Allison F. Rich plays the tough talking sister of Willy, Countess Peggy Palaffi, with aplomb and her over-the-top campy facial expressions give her a commanding and comically severe, put-upon presence. She plays a former stage actress and there are great and original running gags about her age. Meanwhile her wide-eyed frozen faces bring to mind silent film poses or say, Joan Crawford. One of the play’s highlights would be her scenes with Bill Fahrner as Harry Szigetti, a rich man who can save the family bank with a big loan, as she tries to close the deal on making him her next husband.
Ruth Raser Timbrell, costumes
While the set is minimal with a backdrop of Budapest, the costumes looks elegant and retro with silky and ruffly floor length sheathes and party gowns in jewel tone autumn colors, the flatter the figures and look as soft and smooth as lingerie. Allison Rich in particular carries off this lithe style while Halsey Varady in contrast kicks up heals in flowing dancer’s skirts. Her rust colored dancing dress in Roxy Theater in particular looks vibrant especially with her petite figure, spunky and girlish red curls and porcelain skin. Ruth Raser Timbrell designed the costumes.
The men sing a home-grown all-American drinking song about their loyalty to Milwaukee beer.
Down with port or white wine, let us call it swine wine . . .
Nick DiScala and Dave Dobrusky
Nick DiScala played woodwinds on stage and he along with Dave Dobrusky, music director and pianist, become part of the party scene which is a sophisticated and engaging stage move.
Tickets and transportation
“I Married an Angel” is a nice warm up for the holidays and runs to November 17, 2013. The Eureka Theater is on Jackson Square at 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco 94111. It’s an easy stroll or bike ride from Embarcadero BART. A Togo’s and Baskin Robbins Ice-Cream stands nextdoor along with a new café on the other side of the theater, plus Starbucks and Safeway. Drivers may find street parking and the meters stop at six, which is curtain time usually.
Tickets cost $25 to $75. Family/student matinee Saturday, November 9, 1:00 p.m..
For more information: www.42ndStreetMoon.org or call (415) 255-8207
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