Thursday, September 27, 2007

Anything Goes

"The Ritz" presented by Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54, September 18, 2007

One of Terrance McNally's earlier plays, I'm sure it was quite shocking in 1975. With the evolution of cable TV, the shock value is seriously lacking anymore.

The premise is that Gaetano Proclo's father-in-law has made a deathbed order to have Gaetano killed. Gaetano jumps in a cab and asks to be taken to the last place anyone would look for him, which turns out to be a bathhouse, The Ritz.

Eccentric homosexuals, twinky boyfriends, chubby chasers and leathermen abound as the farce evolves. Even a bizarre musical sequence sung by the unintelligible Rosie Perez as Googie Gomez, while entertaining, doesn't raise us beyond the level of early HBO attempts at a TV series.

Kevin Chamberlain's Gaetano comes across a little too passive about the threat to his life from the outset. He never seems particularly resistant to, or shocked by much beyond the chubby chaser who takes a shine to him.

Brooks Ashmanskas has an absolute blast as he tries to push every line and gesture further and further over the top as Chris, the bathhouse regular who realizes that Gaetano is a little more than out of his element.

As Googie Gomez, the no-talent Puerto Rican with dreams of a Broadway career, Rosie Perez completely unintelligible. It was 20 minutes after her first entrance that I could understand anything she said. It's too bad, too. I'm sure she had some pretty good lines that got away. She did have a grand time, like Mr. Ashmanskas, and is pretty fearless as a performer. In one scene where she thinks Gaetano is a Broadway producer, watching her try to climb him like a greased mountain was pretty funny.

The play must have been revised since its opening in 1975, since one of the songs (in one of the most delightfully dreadful medley) was "Tomorrow" from "Annie." Just to give you a taste, the medley included not just that, but "Rose's Turn" (Gypsy), "Shall We Dance" (King and I), "Sabbath Prayer" (Fiddler on the Roof), "People" (Funny Girl), "I Could Have Danced All Night" (My Fair Lady) and "Magic To Do" (Pippin).

The farce element of the play seems to have been disregarded by director Joe Mantello. Just about every plot point was pretty well-telegraphed, leaving little room for surprises.

Scott Pask's multi-level set smacked nicely of the '70s with the metallic and flocked wallpapers accented by the innumerable red doors. William Ivey Long's talents go untested in this production, save for one or two of Googie's frocks.

It's a fun show with plenty of cheap laughs, but I wouldn't recommend it as a priority for anyone with limited time to see shows right now.


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I remember when my considerably conservative parents came home from seeing the movie back in the 70s - I think they thought they were going to see a show based on the famed Paris hotel.

As surprised as they were, I recall them being amused. I'm hoping I'll at leat be amused when I see it over the next couple weeks.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Now that I've seen the show, it sounds like you liked it more than me. But I like your review much better!