REVIEWS: Me and My Girl
November 2, 2006
Reviewed by John Esche
It is not often that I can as enthusiastically recommend a production of a show whose basic script I don't like as I do the current Musicals Tonight revival of the 1986 revival of the 1937 Noel Gay show, Me and My Girl. For those in the New York area, you simply cannot get a better entertainment return for a $20 investment this week (it runs through November 5 at Musicals Tonight's new home over the old Promenade Theatre on Broadway at 79th). In the steeply banked new house, there is not a bad seat in the house.
I say I don't like the basic script. Many do and will, but this charming vest pocket production reminded me (and will those who felt as I did) of everything I didn't like in 1986. Thankfully it ALSO reminded me of and improved on everything I DID.
This was the show in which Robert Lindsay, as the cockney bloke who finds out he is the rightful Earl of Hereford and tries to fit in while not losing his Cockeny girlfriend - the timely intervention of Bernard Shaw's most famous character plays a role in the happy end - stole the Tony that belonged to Les Miserable's Colm Wilkinson on the questionable theory that Lindsay was carrying the entire weaker show on his shoulders. The score is entirely pleasant if only mildly distinguished, but the class based "jokes" in the first act paint our hero just as ignorant and objectionable as his snobbish relatives think he is. Fortunately they are written and told in solid traditional fashion.
More important, as I said, the present production ALSO recaptures and improves everything I did like in 1986. For one thing, George S. Irving is recreating his Broadway role as the hero's blustery uncle and while the wonderful Jane Connell isn't around to play opposite him as the Duchess as she did in 1986, Annette Hunt is, and has even better chemestry with Irving. Their restored duet of love lost and possibly refound (cut prior to rehearsals in 1986 and not acknowledged in the current program) is a lovely addition played to the hilt by two old pros.
For another, once "Bill" smooths out enough to be LIKEABLE, Patrick Boyd, like James Brennan before him (wasn't he Lindsay's Broadway replacement?) actually proves more than up to the challenge of the role, a pleasure to spend an evening with and a fitting consort for his "Gal," the gorgeous Trista Moldovan who can act, move and sing (in Eliza Doolittle Cockney or transformed English) and would be a major addition to any show on or off Broadway.
"The Lambeth Walk" aside, the dancing was no great shakes in 1986, but under Thomas Mills' confident staging, it is effective in this vest pocket production and thoroughly enjoyable. While the score is hardly deathless (or even on a par with contemporary shows from Rodgers & Hart, Porter, Gershwin or Kern), it does have enough pleasure in semi-standards like the title song, "The Lambeth Walk" and "Leaning on a Lampost" to fill out a happy old fashioned evening.
Undeniably, the reason this show is being done now is Mel's celebration of the career of George S. Irving, and while he isn't the LEAD, much of the greatest pleasure of the evening is seeing him giving an even more assured, smoothly comic performance than he did in 1986. The man delivers. Tonight was especially nice because it was Irving's 84th birthday and at the curtain call Mel brought out a cake and candle for Irving to blow out while cast and audience unprompted happily sang "Happy Birthday" to "Dear George."
It was a lovely evening. I hope there are many more. I'm even inclined to dig out that long unplayed '86 Broadway Cast Album just to keep the glow going a bit longer.
Me and My Girl
Theatre.com Review October 26, 2006
Reviewed by Lisa Ferber
Me and My Girl, a Musicals Tonight! production, is pure delight. This is a truly crowd-pleasing play. Originally performed in London in 1937, it was an enormous hit. It then had a London revival in 1985, prompting a Broadway showing which ran for 1,420 performances. It was the first ever musical comedy televised in its entirety direct from a theatre.
The play uses a classic '30s theme of class differences, along with the eternal theme of romance, both new and old. The cast is dressed in period wear involving pretty dresses and parasols for the ladies, and bow ties and vests for the gentlemen.
It revolves around an unapologetically unrefined fellow called Bill who learns that he is the 14th heir to the Earl of Hareford. He will only receive his inheritance, however, if Sir John and the Duchess (played by the intrepid and endearing Annette Hunt) approve of him. Will Bill smooth his rough edges and gain acceptance? Will he ditch his true love, Sally, and succumb to the aggressive flirtation of gold-digging, elegant Jacqueline?
But of course the play is not a mystery. It's a story about love. The script, written by L. Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber, revised by Stephen Fry, is chock full of great lines, as are the lyrics, also by Rose and Furber. Sample dialogue bits include: "Well, you could get a job." "Work? Jackie! Disgrace the family name?...Get up before noon?" and "What do you live on?" "Me wits." "You must be severely undernourished."
Lyrics are funny and smart: "While I'm young and healthy / I'll find someone wealthy" and "You're like an apple on top of a tree / I'd like to shake you and
see you fallin' for me."
The cast is too large to mention one by one, but special mention must be given to George S. Irving. Irving was nominated for a Tony for his 1986 performance of Sir John Tremayne, the role he reprises in this production. Irving is tremendous to watch. He is in full command of his comedic skills, can roll his Rs like nobody's business, and the audience clearly adores him.
The show runs 2 1/2 hours long. I am of the generation that was raised on MTV and quickly developed a short attention span. Me and My Girl never feels lengthy-in fact while I am aware that the book and lyrics are not still "in development," I did find myself wishing that the musical finale had been longer. Just watching a cast of 18 gloriously attired, wonderfully talented performers - most of them glowing with joy and pride in knowing they showed us a great time - is something to behold. I look forward to seeing more Musicals Tonight! productions.
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