Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pal Joey

"Pal Joey" presented by Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54, December 2, 2008

In its first Broadway revival since 1976, the Roundabout has assembled a fairly impressive cast and creative team of the Rodgers and Hart classic. With a new book by Richard Greenberg (who either left much of Mr. Hart's original zingers, or significantly studied up on his Noel Coward) the story has been streamlined a bit (farewell Melba Snyder), maintaining the sophistication that is the hallmark of Rodgers and Hart. I did question the new subplot for Mike, the club manager (Robert Clohessy), though it works overall.

As Joey, Peggy Sawyer Matthew Risch has leapt from the chorus to land above the title, replacing Christian Hoff. (Mr. Hoff withdrew as the result of a "foot injury.") Mr. Risch, dark and handsome, is a talented dancer and acquits himself well in the book scenes. Stockard Channing returns to Broadway for the first time since 1999's revival of "Lion In Winter" (also courtesy of the Roundabout). Her Vera is classy, though a bit breathless in song (perhaps she's strapped in a bit too tightly in William Ivey Long's gorgeous gowns?).

For me, it's Martha Plimpton who steals the show as Gladys Bumps. Mr. Greenberg's rewrite has tossed "Zip" her way in Act II - who knew she could sing? She's well on her way to a Bea Arthur-baritone. I can't wait to see what she'll do next.

Ms. Plimpton and Ms. Channing both owe a debt to Graciela Danielle for choreography that swirls the company around each (a la Faith Prince in "Guys and Dolls"). The choreography is excellent overall, but the ballet ending Act I did feel a bit creaky from time to time. Paul Gemignani maintains his standard of excellence with the 16 piece orchestra, though there were times when singers suffered as a result, particularly Mr. Risch and Jenny Fellner as Linda English.

Scott Pask's creative set did feel either a bit over designed or underused. The El train scaffold begged for more attention than just to create extra shadows in Paul Gallo's excellent lighting.

Mr. Mantello should be proud of his work here, creatively staged with fine performances from all.

UPDATE: John Lahr offers a nice analysis with some valuable comparisons between the original book by John O'Hara and the new book by Richard Greenberg. Check it out here.

1 comment:

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Great comparing notes with you Mondschein! I really enjoyed this production and can't wait to see Ms. Plimpton receive her Tony nod.