REVIEWS: You Never Know

You Never Know (Concert)
BackStage. com April 16, 2009
Reviewed by Ron Cohen

Musicals Tonight! has put together a modest little charmer in its concert revival of You Never Know, an uncelebrated Cole Porter musical dating back to 1938. The piece has been considerably reworked and reduced from its original and only Broadway outing, which ran for 78 performances and listed a cast of nearly 50 and multiple scene changes.

In this reincarnation, it’s a one-set show with a cast of seven and fits comfortably into the bare-bones, script-carrying, solo-piano accompaniment production format of Musicals Tonight!. The program credits an adaptation by Paul Lazarus for “concepts and dialogue.” The Lazarus adaptation was presented in 1991 at the Pasadena Playhouse and in 1996 at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse.

The book is a mild-mannered farce that has its origins in a Viennese operetta and shows it. Nevertheless, as performed by a likable cast under the direction of Thomas Sabella-Mills, it exudes a satisfactory amount of retro appeal. Gaston (Kevin Kraft) is the valet to Baron von

Hummer (James Zanelli), a serial seducer of the ladies of Paris. One night in pursuit of romance, they switch identities. To add to the merry confusion, the target of Gaston’s affections is also flaunting a false identity. She’s the maid Maria (Jennifer Evans) pretending to be her boss, a grand married lady (Kate Marriley) who’s one of the baron’s many paramours.

But the big attraction for Porter devotees is the reassembling of the score. The show adds nine songs cut from the Broadway production, and while they don’t include any surprise standards, the score in total shimmers with Porter’s melodic verve and lyric genius. There are some signature list songs with their almost encyclopedic naming of contemporary celebrities, lilting ballads, and moody, impassioned love songs. The vocal renditions are fairly straightforward if not always totally inspired, but it’s a treat to hear them. The music director is James Stenborg, who supplies the piano accompaniment.

The best-known number from the original production is “At Long Last Love.” It’s the one that famously asks, “Is it the good turtle soup or merely the mock?” Well, this is the good Cole Porter, even if served up in a rather plain bowl.

Presented by Musicals Tonight!
at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, 2162 Broadway, NYC.
April 14–26. Tue.–Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Wed. and Fri., 2 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.
(212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.
Casting by Stephen DeAngelis.
Reviewed by Ron Cohen
Published on BackStage.com on April 16, 2009.
Copyright 2009 The Nielsen Company. All rights reserved.

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