|New Wrappings, Same Old Joey|
|Thursday, 21 June 2012 17:29|
Sometimes it’s better to let well enough alone.
Such is the case with the latest rewrite of “Pal Joey,” the 1940 musical with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, which opened Tuesday evening at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich. The latest book is by Patrick Pacheco.
“Pal Joey” was reportedly the first musical to have an anti-hero as its primary character. Since then, audiences have become familiar with that type, even when he is singing and dancing. The key is charm, with a capital C. If this is lacking, the show has two strikes already.
The Barn cast has a number of very charming characters. Joey (Joseph Anthony Byrd) is not among them. Byrd has a pleasant baritone and adequately executes the limited choreography created by Jamey Grisham but his portrayal of a shallow but charismatic climber who uses everyone to his own ends falls short, even in spite of the Sinatra-style Fedora hat he wears almost constantly, and the hint of reconciliation with his waitress/artist girlfriend Linda, which is much more than he deserves.
If Joey is not a strong character, those around him come more naturally to center stage. Chief among them is Kim Zimmer, multiple Daytime Emmy Award winner as Reva Shayne Lewis in the former CBS serial “Guiding Light.” As Vera Simpson, the bored wife of a dairy millionaire (no surprise, there are a lot of cow jokes in the script), Zimmer is an audience favorite and retains her dignity as Vera’s affair with Joey progresses. She has the show’s best known ballad, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” and delivers it first with anticipation, then with anger as Joey comes and goes in her life. She definitely is a strong stage presence.
The character of Ted, Joey’s best friend, accompanist and music arranger, is not in the original show. Here, as played by Kevin Robert White, he quietly becomes a primary figure. Ted serves as the narrator, a la each of the Four Seasons in “Jersey Boys.” The matter of his homosexuality is a major but unnecessarily added plot device. Ted’s gradual disenchantment with Joey and eventual dissolution of their relationship, personal and professional, would be just as believable if he were not “in love” with him. White plays and/or sings a majority of the better-known songs retained from the original score, and there are several, plus a number of R&H classics that have been added, including “The Lady Is A Tramp.”
Annette Moore is Linda, the diner waitress/artist who loves Joey in spite of himself. She also delivers several of the shows highly recognizable tunes but her character is bland and too low-key to be believable as THE one who would catch the elusive Joey. (And you have to wonder why she — or anyone — would want to.)
Bright spots in the dark scenario are the three chorus girls who brighten the club throughout its managerial changes. Val (Julie Grisham), Gladys (Amy Harpenau) and Trixie (Emily Fleming) stop just enough this side of caricature to be delightfully entertaining. All sing and dance well with Grisham and Harpenau each belting out “That Terrific Rainbow” and Fleming earning laughs with numerology that is always one number off.
The multi-locational scenic design by Steven Lee Burright, Dusty Reeds and Fred Gillette works well for the small stage with minimal interruption of the action for changing set pieces, especially challenging when a grand piano must remain on throughout, as must the five-piece band.
The production is directed by a former Barnie, Peter Schneider, Broadway producer of “The Lion King” and producer/director of “Sister Act, The Musical” and former president of Disney Animation.
”PAL JOEY” plays through July 1 at The Barn Theatre on M62 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For performance times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121 between 10 a.m. and 10 p..m. daily or visit www.barntheatre.com.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 August 2012 02:08|