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Monday, February 24, 2020

The Confession of Lily Dare (Primary Stages)

By Harry Forbes

That consummate man of the theater, Charles Busch, has come up with a superb parody that both lovingly spoofs and pays respectful homage to those self-sacrificing women’s films of the 1930s (“The Sin of Madelon Claudet,” “Stella Dallas,” etc.), along the way brilliantly incorporating every beloved trope of the genre. And, as the titular heroine, he manages to channel everyone from Hayley Mills to Marlene Dietrich to Mae West and Bette Davis.

As Lily climbs from orphan girl to glamorous cabaret headliner to jailbird to madam and down-and-out honky tonk singer, she, all the while, remains a loving mother to a daughter who doesn’t know her. Busch proves, as he’s done so often before, a masterful mimic and farceur. He is surrounded by a sterling cast of performers who match his facility for period spoofing. I saw the play in its showcase production at Theater for the New City two years ago, and good as everyone was then, the cast has now fine tuned their roles to perfection.

The whole is directed by Busch’s regular collaborator, Carl Andress who is, of course, so seamlessly attuned to Busch’s sensibilities.

The action opens at Lily’s grave site (evocative and humorous sets by Busch’s frequent designer B.T. Whitehill), as the lady’s most loyal friends, ex-prostitute Emmy Lou (Nancy Anderson) and brothel piano player Mickey (Kendal Sparks) pay their respects which leads to the backstory unfolding in flashback. 

We see how Lily first came to the San Francisco whorehouse run by her Aunt Rosalie (the deliciously chameleon Jennifer Van Dyck, in one of four hilarious roles). We soon meet the ne’er-do-well swindler Blackie Lambert (an oily Howard McGillin), and the brothel’s bookkeeper (soon to be Lily’s first lover) Louis (Christopher Borg, who throughout the evening, matches Van Dyck in rib-tickling versatility). The 1906 earthquake, in short order, leaves the now pregnant and man-less Lily in dire straits once again. 

But with Blackie’s help, she reinvents herself as a glittering chanteuse named Mandelay, allowing Busch to offer a peerless impression of Marlene Dietrich, growling a clever Frederick Hollander/Kurt Weill mashup, “Pirate Joe,” penned by arranger Tom Judson.

Later framed for a crime she didn’t commit, she loses her daughter Louise to a wealthy Nob Hill couple (Borg and Van Dyck), but finds success as a notorious madam now calling herself Treasure Jones. 

Louise grows up to become a world famous opera star, but Lily nobly keeps her distance.

What makes these Busch spoofs so much more than extended “Carol Burnett Show” take-offs, is the real heart and genuine emotions with which they are written and played. When Lily’s at rock bottom, for instance, she sings a brave version of “A Shanty in Old Shanty Town,” it’s a genuinely touching moment transcending spoof. But there are many such moments.

So, too, the play is very well plotted in a manner that might give that master Victorian melodrama writer Dion Boucicault a run for his money. 


Jessica Jahn and Rachel Townsend’s costumes are great fun, and the former really goes to town with Busch’s flashy getups. Townsend’s creations help Van Dyck and Borg transform from one wildly divergent character to another. 

Van Dyck’s impersonation of the diva -- miming hilariously to “Sempre Libera” from “La Traviata”  -- and feeling a mystical connection to the mother she never knew, is a show in itself as she affects posh Greer Garsonish tones. She also plays a haughty baroness. Borg, for his part, plays a lecherous baron, an Irish priest, and an Italian impresario. Anderson, a stylist vocalist excelling in repertoire of an earlier era, proves just as adept at adopting the acting style of bygone stars here channeling Joan Blondell and others of that ilk as the good-hearted tart. And McGillin, as noted, impressively nails the suave rake. 

Kirk Bookman’s movie-style lighting and Bart Fasbender’s evocative sound design add to the period fun.

(Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street; primarystages.org or 212-352-3101; through March 5)

Photos by Carol Rosegg.

Top: Howard McGillin and Charles Busch
Below: Kendal Sparks, Charles Busch, Christopher Borg, Nancy Anderson, Jennifer Van Dyck and Howard McGillin

Monday, February 17, 2020

Seesaw (The J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company)


By Harry Forbes

Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields’ 1973 musical adaptation of playwright William Gibson's 1958 “Two for the Seesaw” is being accorded a rare revival on Theatre Row.

The production marks the launch of a plucky new company dedicated to small scale revivals from one of Broadway's latter-day Golden Ages.

The fledgling group’s premiere effort, under the direction of company Artistic Director Robert W. Schneider, is an impressively polished one. Originally, besides the strengths of the show’s stars Michele Lee, Ken Howard, and Tommy Tune, the show’s greatest accolades had to do with Michael Bennett’s staging and choreography and the imaginative and innovative projections of New York. Neither of those attributes are on view here, although Ryan J. Douglass has designed an attractive New York skyline backdrop and Caitlin Belcik’s choreography is impressive for the intimate stage space.

The musical closely follows the plot of Gibson's play (with much of his dialogue retained), which originally starred Henry Fonda and Anne Bancroft and was later filmed with Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine in gritty black and white and with a melancholic jazz score by Andre Previn. The two-hander would have seemed an unlikely candidate for musicalization, as it’s a bittersweet comedy-drama about two lonely mismatched souls -- she divorced, he on the verge -- who briefly find and bolster each other.

They are dancer Gittel Mosca (Stephanie Israelson), by her own admission “not very smart,” and living a bohemian lifestyle, and straight-laced Nebraska lawyer Jerry Ryan (Andy Tighe). Gittel’s insecurities and sense that the relationship isn’t quite right almost scuttles the relationship near the start, but a serious ulcer attack (hers) reunites them.     

Gittel’s choreographer friend David -- the part originated by Tommy Tune who received a Tony award for his work -- is nicely played here by J Savage. Though the relationship is far from smooth sailing, you find yourself rooting for them anyway.

“Seesaw” was both praised and criticized for its schizophrenic nature, part intimate drama, part splashy musical. Though there are character songs for the two leads (Cy Coleman wrote the score, Dorothy Fields, in her last show, the lyrics), the big production numbers really have precious little to do with the central plot. Those are well done here, including David's dream finale, “It's Not Where You Start,” and the show’s most durable tune, which is put over with requisite pizzazz by Savage.

Tighe is solid as Jerry and delivers his songs very appealingly, including “You’re a Lovable Lunatic” and “We’ve Got It,” very nicely vocalized. Israelson balances abrasiveness and charm, though at first it seemed as though the former attribute was going to win the day. By the time she got to her 11 o’clock number, “I’m Way Ahead,” we were in her court.

She plays Gittel with a heavy Bronx accent and reminds me of Edie Falco with a bit of Barbra Streisand thrown in for good measure, and has the show’s other best known song, the self-deprecating “Nobody Does It Like Me,” doing well with it and her comic follow-up “Welcome to Holiday Inn.” 

Memories of "Musicals Tonight," producer Mel Miller's group which folded last year after an impressive run of 100 productions, are inevitable. Same venue. Similar presentation style. Miller was present at the reviewed performance, and was acknowledged warmly by Executive Producer Jim Jimirro before the show, prompting a warm, well-deserved ovation. (Jimirro also took the opportunity to tout a series of special talkbacks that will accompany many of the performances.)

Those familiar with the cast album or the show itself, will note two missing first act songs: “Spanglish” and “Ride Out the Storm.” The latter is replaced here by “The Party’s On Me,” the song written for the original national tour which starred Lucie Arnaz and John Gavin.

Under the direction of Grant Strom, the numbers are in good hands, and the onstage ensemble of piano, bass, and xylophone, make for an attractive musical palette,.

Matthew Solomon has designed the evocative 1970’s costumes. The show is very much a product of that era, and wisely, there’s been no updating. (Longtime theatergoers may remember that Mayor John Lindsay made a well-publicized cameo appearance in the show.)

The production will be followed by Richard Rodgers’ solo effort, “No Strings” (2/27-3/8) and then by the Edward Kleban bio musical, “A Class Act” (3/12-3/22) both of which should adapt well to the intimate J2 Spotlight approach. 

(Theatre Two at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd  Street; 212-239-6200 or www.telecharge.com; through February 23)


Pictured (left to right): Morgan Hecker, Kyle Caress, Halle Mastroberardino, Caleb Grochalski, Stephanie Israelson, Andy Tighe, Katie Griffith, Chaz Alexander Coffin, J Savage.

Photo credit: Russ Rowland.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (The New Group)


By Harry Forbes

Composer Duncan Sheik’s musical version of Paul Mazursky’s 1969 box office smash has a lot going for it -- a talented cast, an easy-on-the-ears score, and a book that totally respects the source material -- but, at the end of the day, one wonders about the wisdom of adapting the film for the stage at all, much less adding songs to it.

Those who just have a general idea of the film’s plot may assume the story was a free-wheeling 1960s sex farce. In fact, it’s a rather serious-minded satire of the mores of the sexual revolution of the time, albeit with plentiful laughs. Mazursky himself considered it a “comedy of manners” about love and affection.

The plot concerns the couple Bob and Carol who attend an Esalen-like enlightenment group as filmmaker Bob is planning a documentary about the group. (Mazursky had read an article about Esalen in Time magazine, and was inspired to attend with his wife, but there the real-life parallels to the plot ends.) 

Bob and Carol learn how to get in touch with their feelings during encounter therapy, most especially Carol who seems to feel especially liberated by the weekend of self-examination. And when they return home, the couple tries to share their New Age enthusiasm with close friends Ted and Alice. Shortly after, Bob confesses to Carol about a brief affair in San Francisco, and Carol applauds his fearless honesty rather than chastising him. But when she shares this “happy” news with their friends, Alice, in particular, is appalled at Bob’s infidelity and the couple’s infuriatingly casual attitude shakes her to the core. This sets up a conflict with the couples that comes to a head when they take a vacation to Las Vegas. 

Jonathan Marc Sherman’s book adheres very closely to the screenplay by Mazursky and Larry Tucker, and all the famous scenes from the film are here -- and done quite well, too. The four leads comprise the main company, while Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega (“Luka”) provides the voices for all the other characters (the Institute team leader, Alice’s therapist, and so on) as the nominal “Band Leader.” When more bodies are needed onstage, as for instance in the opening encounter session at the Institute, audience members are recruited to join the playing area as silent participants, a rather awkward device, I felt. 

Under The New Group Artistic Director Scott Elliott’s assured helming, the talented cast -- including Joél Peréz (“Fun Home”) as Bob; Duncan Sheik alumna Jennifer Damiano (“Spring Awakening,” “American Psycho”) as Carol, Michael Zegen (Joel Maisel on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) as Ted; and Ana Nogueira (“Engagements”) as Alice -- excel in all departments, and look good in designer Jeff Mahshie’s underwear in which they spend a good part of the one hour and 45 minute intermission-less evening. Nogueira is especially funny replicating the scene in which Alice wants no part of sex after Carol’s stunning revelation about Bob. Still, for all the talent here, it can’t be said they can erase the memory or convey a comparable charisma to Robert Culp, Natalie Wood, Elliot Gould and Dyan Cannon in the film. (A TV spin-off in 1973 with Robert Urich and Anne Archer fizzled and was pulled from the air after only seven of its 12 episodes aired.)

As noted above, one of the show’s strongest assets is its fidelity to the source material and its attempt to capture the mood of the piece, right up the film’s surreal “What the World Needs Now” ending, here mirrored with a song called “What’s Up With Love?” All in all, Sheik has composed a pleasantly jazzy score, and the song presentation is highly stylized. When a character is inspired to break into song, a microphone is either handed over wherever they happen to be on the stage, or the actor actually joins the four musicians upstage and takes a place behind a standing mike. 

This serves the purpose of keeping the dramatic aspects someone separate from the musical, but more often than not, the songs feel unnecessary, despite some catchy tunes (like Ted’s “A Little Misbehavior”), and the clever rhymes penned by lyricists Sheik and Amanda Green, such as Alice’s “though you’re unscientific, a bit soporific, I feel almost - huh - beatific.”
                   
Near the end, there’s a song, sensitively vocalized by Vega, that skillfully clears up the ambiguity of the film’s ending, one of the few cases of a song helpfully elucidating the action.

The cast navigates the intimate playing area resourcefully. Kelly Devine is credited with the musical staging, as there’s little traditional choreography. 

Derek McLane’s set, lighted by Jeff Croiter, includes some movable furniture in the downstage playing area (including, of course, a bed), a bandstand and beaded curtain behind.

Jason Hart, also credited with the vocal arrangements, is the adroit music supervisor.

(The Pershing Square Signature Center 480 West 42nd Street; TheNewGroup.org or 917-935-4242 through March 22)

Photo by Monique Carboni:  Michael Zegen, Jennifer Damiano, Joél Pérez, Ana Nogueira

Friday, January 31, 2020

Grand Horizons (Second Stage Theater)


By Harry Forbes

Despite its superficially sitcom veneer, “Grand Horizons” is, beneath the copious laughs, a surprisingly perceptive and insightful work about relationships, family, aging, life choices, and the nature of love. Bess Wohl’s throwback comedy also offers terrific opportunities for its cast, all of whom rise superbly to the occasion.

For starters, Jane Alexander gives one of the best performances of her long and distinguished careers. She plays Nancy, wife of 50 years to the taciturn Bill (equally masterful James Cromwell) who nurses dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian. They are now living in an independent living senior community, the titular Grand Horizons.

Over breakfast one morning, Nancy placidly announces she wants a divorce. Bill acquiesces without further batting an eye. But when the news gets out, their two grown sons -- Ben (Ben McKenzie), a lawyer, and Brian (Michael Urie), a high school drama teacher immersed in a production of “The Crucible” with an improbable cast of 200 -- are apoplectic at the thought of the impending breakup. They promptly descend on their parents’ abode for an intervention to sort out what they view as an impossibility. Ben’s expectant wife Jess (Ashley Park) is a therapist ever on the ready to offer her professional advice. 

Ben is gruff and is aggressively impatient for the parents to see reason; Brian is self-centered and emotionally overwrought, frequently on the verge of tears. He’s just getting out of a failed relationship, and at one point, while everyone is asleep upstairs, he even brings home a randy pickup (amusing Maulik Pancholy) who even on short acquaintance, soon gleans Brian’s inherent selfishness. Later, Urie’s rising hysteria as he hears more of the sordid details that led to his mother’s decision is hilariously conveyed. In fact, all the interactions between Alexander and Urie are special. as for instance, when she reveals his father has “something on the side.”

As indicated, the play is worth catching for Alexander alone who demonstrates peerless comic timing, while giving a genuinely feeling performance. Wonderfully poised even when saying the most surprising or outrageous things, her beautifully dry, unflappable delivery is masterful. 

Priscilla Lopez brightens the second act as Bill’s lady friend Carla, a dental office receptionist from the adjoining Vista View community, whom Bill has met in his stand-up comedy class. 

There’s satisfying chemistry between all the actors, incuding McKenzie and Park who expertly limn their troubled-beneath-the-surface relationship, and Park proves yet again what a fine comedienne she is. 

Many have seen parallels to Neil Simon in the play, but I think there’s a closer stylistic parallel to English playwright Alan Ayckbourn. Wohl’s themes here, underneath the bellylaughs, are quite profound, and the emotions are never less than real. 

Clint Ramos’ set lighted by Jen Schriever perfectly captures the dull sameness of the Grand Horizons units. Linda Cho’s costumes are character-perfect.  Bryce Cutler’s projection design provides an amusingly animated pre-show and intermission drop curtain.

Leigh Silverman’s razor-sharp direction is perfectly attuned to Wohl’s style and keeps the action, however outrageous, satisfyingly plausible.

(Hayes Theater, 240 W 44th Street; 2d.com or 212-541-4516; through March 1)

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Soldier’s Play (Roundabout Theatre Company)


By Harry Forbes

Charles Fuller’s 1981 Pulitzer-winner, a jewel in the crown of the old Negro Ensemble Company, and one which has generated two Off-Broadway revivals, finally makes it to Broadway courtesy of the Roundabout. It’s a classy, well-acted production with some sharp directorial touches by Kenny Leon, including a significant amount of song and stylized movement.

Still, I couldn’t help feeling that the procedural structure -- so very familiar from TV -- makes the play a little less groundbreaking than the original production with such future lights as Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson, and the subsequent film (titled “A Soldier’s Story”), must have seemed.

The setting is a segregated Army base in 1944 Louisiana. The black enlisted men, most or all veterans of the Negro League, are itching to be sent off to war. In the play’s opening moments, their commanding officer Sgt. Waters (played by veteran of the original production and film David Alan Grier, albeit in a different role) appears on the upper level of Derek McLane’s stylized army barracks set, crazily ranting about how “they’ll still hate you,” when he’s felled by two bullets from an unseen assassin. 

The play continues in classic whodunit fashion. The black Capt. Davenport (an authoritative and dynamic Blair Underwood) is sent to investigate, much to the surprise and delight of the men, but the enormous discomfort of the base’s white Capt. Taylor (Jerry O’Connell in a well-judged performance). Upon meeting Davenport, Taylor freely admits to some ingrained prejudice, but his real concern is that if the killing turns out to be a presumed KKK lynching, the locals would never stand for a black man making the charge. (In fact, the base is in lock-down mode to prevent any random reprisals from the men.)

Undeterred, Davenport continues on his assigned mission, interviewing all the men, including a couple of white officers, Byrd (Nate Mann) and Wilcox (Lee Aaron Rosen) with whom Waters clashed the night of his killing.

What Davenport soon discovers is that Waters was universally hated by his men for his disdainful contempt of obsequious blacks whom, he felt, were a disgrace to the race. It is a credit to Grier’s performance that bullying and demeaning though he is, he manages to show us the pain he himself has endured.

But, as we see in the numerous flashback scenes, Waters was quite merciless in taunting the men of whom he was especially critical, including the angry Pvt. Peterson (Nnamdi Asomugha), Private Wilkie (Billy Eugene Jones) whose stripes were taken away from him by Waters, and most especially, the likable, guitar-strumming Pvt. C.J. Memphis (J. Alphonse Nicholson) whom Waters sees as especially emblematic of the “lazy, shiftless” type he disdains. In short, there are a lot of suspects.

The flashback scenes do frankly seem a bit clunky, despite all of Leon’s directorial finesse, and the play overall seems unusually talky, but the mystery aspects certainly keep you hooked, and the overall themes of racism and racial identity are undeniably compelling, and still have contemporary relevance.

The cast is uniformly excellent. Besides those mentioned, there’s outstanding work by Rob Demery as the cocky Col. Cobb, McKinley Belcher III as the wary Pvt. Henson, Jared Grimes as the insecure Pvt. Smalls, and Warner Miller as Cpl. Ellis.

(American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street;  212-719-1300 or roundabouttheatre.org; through March 15)

Thursday, January 23, 2020

My Name is Lucy Barton (Manhattan Theatre Club)

By Harry Forbes

Laura Linney won unanimous acclaim for her performance in this stage adaptation of Elizabeth Strout's best-selling book when she performed it at London's Bridge Theatre in 2018, and she’s now justly earning the same kudos for reprising the role on Broadway.

The titular Lucy -- who left her Amgash, Illinois home for New York years before to pursue a career as a writer -- lies in a hospital room fighting a serious infection after an appendix operation. Much to Lucy’s surprise, she awakens one day to discover her estranged mother has traveled all the way there to look over her. Lucy marvels at the bravery of the insular woman making her way there on her own. Her mother ends up staying for five days before departing as abruptly as she came, a pattern that will be poignantly echoed later in the play.

The mother, a plain speaking farm woman, warms Lucy with her presence, but it's clear that she had been an emotionally distant parent. And the father, suffering from PTSD, was even worse. We learn that Lucy and her siblings endured lonely childhoods, with beatings and other punishments part of their life. Lucy, for instance, had to endure being locked in her father’s truck for hours on end, once, traumatically, with a snake. 

As this is a one-person show, Linney plays both Lucy and her mother. Her portrayal of the mother is finally characterized. One starts to feel two people are on stage, as the mother regales her with homespun stories of what the neighbors, like one Kathy Nicely, are up to. 

We do hear of the other people in Lucy’s life, including a particularly empathetic elderly neighbor named Jerry. Lucy's husband is significantly absent at the hospital, but Lucy gets great comfort from a kindly Jewish doctor who faithfully checks on her even on his days off. She keeps in touch with her two young daughters by phone. But the loneliness underneath her upbeat optimism is beautifully conveyed.

Luke Halls’ projection design is outstanding as it shows us everything from the gleaming Chrysler building outside Lucy's hospital room to the aforementioned truck to the green fields of Illinois. Bob Crowley’s spare hospital room set, lighted by Peter Mumford -- Lucy’s bed, a visitor chair, and the window -- are pretty much all but nothing more is really needed. Audience members sit on either side of the stage, as presumably was the case in London. 

Richard Eyre directs with an assured sense of drama, understated though it may be. There’s little in the way of conventional plot, but the narrative is emotionally rich. 

It seems to me that the novel - which I've not read - has been astutely adapted for the stage by Rona Munro. Even with its first-person narrative structure, the play registers as vital drama, and never feels like an audiobook. 

Its 90 intermission-less minutes fly by, and Linney -- in perhaps her most iconic role since she make such a splash as Mary Ann Singleton in “Tales of the City” back in the early 1980’s -- is rewarded with a well-earned standing ovation. 

(Manhattan Theatre Club at The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street; Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200)

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Monday, January 13, 2020

Jagged Little Pill (Broadhurst Theatre)


By Harry Forbes

Though I must confess I had zero familiarity with Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette’s lauded 1995 album from which many of the songs in the new musical derive, it still seems to me that “Jagged Little Pill”  is head and shoulders above most jukebox musicals. 

That’s because the songs (music co-written with Glen Ballard with additional music by Michael Farrell and Guy Sigsworth) are woven into an uncommonly absorbing narrative fashioned by Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Juno." The story she’s fashioned to fit the songs concerns a well-to-do Connecticut family with a heavy dose of dysfunction. As many of my colleagues have pointed out, there are more issues here than you can shake a stick at -- opiod addiction, rape, online bullying, racism, and much much more -- but even so, I never found any of that excessive, so skillfully does the story unfold.

The show has come to Broadway after a successful run at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Not being familiar with the album, the songs had no prior associations, and frankly, I found most of the lyrics nearly incomprehensible -- a complaint echoed by several at my performance -- but even so, the general mood of each number was clear enough. If a character was, say, expressing anger or loneliness, those emotions were powerfully conveyed. Perhaps the audibility issues are a result of Jonathan Deans’ sound design (well balanced in the dialogue though) or perhaps it's just the nature of the louder ensemble numbers. 

The talent on view is exemplary. Mary Jane Healy (Elizabeth Stanley surpassing all her previous excellent work) is the overreaching mother who has high expectations for her son Nick (Derek Klena) who has just gotten into Harvard (as she just knew he would), leading the boy to feel valued more for his achievements than himself. A car accident has left her hopelessly addicted to painkillers, a fact she conceals from her family, along with another secret potentially even more explosive.

Frankie (Celia Rose Gooding, talented daughter of LaChanze) is the adopted black daughter, a tireless activist for all causes who is secretly involved in a lesbian relationship with her friend Jo (Lauren Patten) until, that is, she meets the cute Phoenix (Antonio Cipriano) at a party. Businessman husband Steve (Sean Allan Krill) is a workaholic, and neglects the disinterested Mary Jane (aka MJ) for internet porn. When outsider girl Bella (Kathryn Gallagher) is raped at a party by Nick’s callous friend Andrew (Logan Hart), we learn that all is even less ideal than MJ’s Christmas letter, which opens the show, would suggest. 

With all of the high drama, there are lighter moments and humor in the mix.

The songs (some from the “Jagged Little Pill” album along with other Morissette material, old and new) -- and effectively orchestrated by Tom Kitt -- are superlatively performed. But it is Jo’s angry outburst “You Oughta Know” that emerges as the big showstopper and actually stopped the show with a partial standing ovation at the reviewed performance. But other numbers, sonically muddy or not, make an impression such as “Ironic,” which spins from Frankie’s creative writing class; Bella’s “Predator”; Nick’s “Perfect”; Steve’s “So Unsexy”; and Mary Jane’s “Uninvited.” 

Even if the show were devoid of songs altogether, Cody’s book would, I think, make a solid theatrical evening. Director Diane Paulus has worked her usual wizardry to make a cohesive and satisfying evening. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui provides the lively choreography.

Riccardo Hernández’s flashy scenic design, Emily Rebholz’s funky costumes, and Justin Townsend’s astute lighting are top-flight.

(Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44 Street; Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200) 

Photo by Matthew Murphy: Celia Rose Gooding and Lauren Patten