Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Hey There, Good Times, Cy Coleman is Here
Gently satirizing the sexual revolution of the 1970s, this pastiche musical is set in Trenton, New Jersey where Wally (Duke Lafoon) and Alvin (Andrew Cassese) have been good friends since their school boy days. Wally, who is in public relations and talks a good game, convinces moving man Alvin that having two women as sex partners is twice as satisfying as old-fashioned coupling.
The nebbishy, credulous Alvin tries to convince his wife Cleo (Bridget Crawford) to agree to such a threesome, but to Alvin's distress she suggests a threesome with Wally. Their final answer is to have a foursome with Wally and his wife Monica (Erin Maguire).
Now the boastful Wally must convince his Monica. It is Christmas Eve when Alvin and Cleo arrive ready for the quadrupling, but as Michael Stewart explains in one of his witty lyrics:
Just one slight minor snag
It's a light, silly story, and it falls somewhere between being a period piece and being just dated. However, in the hands of an energetic and attractive young cast and director Rob Urbinati, the story is painless, and the eventual quadrangular lovemaking session manages to be quite amusing.
The four piece onstage band gets to sing throughout the evening and do a little dialogue as they also serve as old school friends, Alvin's fellow moving men, and a Greek chorus. When three are dressed as Santas, one dresses as a bearded Chasid and holds up a menorah. It is an off-putting, unfunny notion that hopefully will be excised.
Cy Coleman is an idiosyncratic, jazz oriented composer of some of the loosest, swingingest music to be heard in the American musical. He has composed a thoroughly delightful, intoxicating, toe tapping score for I Love My Wife, and it is wonderful to be able to hear it on stage again. Jazz, honky tonk, barrel house, a cross of Latin dance beat and rock, country, a march, ballads and more, and everyone's a winner.
This is a score that really merits revisiting. It is difficult to know which of its many delightful songs to mention. The rousing "Hey There, Good Times," the popular title ballad "I Love My Wife," the country style "Someone Wonderful I Missed," the Christmas standard quality "Lovers on Christmas Eve," the truly witty "Ev'rybody Today is Turning On" and a fabulous jazz number "By Threes," which should be a jazz club staple, will do for now.
Andrew Cassese, Bridget Crawford, Erin Maguire and Duke Lafoon comprise a likeable ensemble which delivers the requisite charm, humor and musicality needed. The very active acting and singing band, consisting of Ben Morss, Anthony Rand, Clayton Fletcher and Chris McBurney, makes a major contribution.
It is worth mentioning that the production is amplified by the entertaining performance contributions of Jill Anderson and Ruthie L. Conde as added ensemble presences. Not listed among the cast, they are assistant stage managers whose performances have been enabled by an Equity waiver. Thank you, Equity. This appears to be the sort of cooperation and flexibility which benefits all including the theatergoer.
Joseph Egan's cartoon-like set design is colorful and appropriate to the material at hand.
Director Rob Urbinati has a good feel for the material, neither forcing nor missing any of the humor.
I Love My Wife is being produced in association with the Queens Theatre in the Park and the Emelin Theatre, and engagements at those theatres will follow its current engagement in Nyack. Audiences at all three theatres can look forward to solid musical entertainment.
I Love My Wife continues performances through April 25, 2004 at the Helen Hayes Theatre, 123 Main Street, Nyack, NY 10960. Phone: 845-358-6333; 201-358-6065; online www.hhtco.org
I Love My Wife Music by Cy Coleman/Book and Lyrics by Michael Stewart; directed by Rob Urbinati; choreography by Gary John La Rosa. Cast: Andrew Cassese (Alvin); Bridget Crawford (Cleo); Erin Maguire (Monica); Duke Lafoon (Wally). and The Musicians: Ben Morss (Norman); Anthony Rand (Stanley); Clayton Fletcher (Harvey);Chris McBurney (Quentin): Asst. Stage Managers: Jill Anderson; Ruthie L. Conde