Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


This Kander & Ebb - Rupert Holmes musical is a gem. It may not be as flashy-dashy as Drowsy Chaperone - but it does one thing well - it entertains.

The show numbers are big and bold - lots of high kicks and toes-a-tappin' during the many rousing full cast numbers. What more would you expect from a "show within a show"? The basic plot goes something like this... A (pretty bad) show is being rehearsed and there are a few murders (yes, one might expect Jessica Fletcher to show up!). The investigation traps the entire cast, crew, producers, and director inside the theater. While the mystery unravels - the police lieutenant lives out his fantasy by "improving" the many numbers and scenes ultimately making it a success (and solves the murder mystery too!).

One can't help but also detect ever so slight references to songs and shows of days gone by... is KansasLand a spoof of OKLAHOMA!? Do we see the budding romance of the lieutenant and a cast member get played out in a fantasy dance ballet that resembles a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers number? Does Show People have it's roots in Annie Get Your Gun? Probably so - and there are probably more that this theater novice just didn't pick up on!

It's goofy and silly and fun all around. I might say that while David Hyde Pierce (the lieutenant) loves the stage and is a great comedic actor - he's not much of a singer or dancer. Debra Monk plays one of the show's producers and I have to say - You can hear a little Ethel Merman in her. She commands the stage with her character's powerful personality and biting wit. Edward Hibbert - as old as he is - simply steals the show as the stuffy, witty and cantankerous director. And you can never mistake the voice of Ernie Sabella - bellowing all the way off stage for his enterance. Yes, even the orchestra conductor has dialogue and a song to sing!
Yes, a bit campy. Yes a bit "old fashioned". Yes, not the "best" show you've ever seen - - but the supporting cast brings the house down with each company number. I did see it at its first preview so maybe they'll tighten up the show, cut some dialogue, and contain the energy. If they can keep you tapping from 8:07 to 10:15 after opening night they might have a pretty good run of it.