Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sex and the City 2 (Warner Bros. Pictures)

By Harry Forbes

The franchise – and sorry to say, the gals themselves – may be aging (a point not ignored by the script), but all in all, the second big screen version is enjoyable if over bloated, if you can overlook the strained contrivance of the plot. Critics have been viciously snarky about the film, but fans will overlook the faults. It’s a totally unreal but eye-filling wish-fulfillment epic, and delivers the goods.

It’s two years since the events in the last film. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) have settled into a pleasant but tired domesticity. Carrie still wants to go out on the town, while Big is content to lounge in bed watching old black and white movies. (“It Happened One Night” gets significant play here.) They begin to think they could use a couple of days off from each other each week.

Perfectionist Charlotte (Kristin Davis), still happily married to Harry (Evan Handler), has two perennially crying girls, and after her friends lay seeds of doubt, has started to worry about her buxom Irish nanny Erin, played by Alice Eve (“Erin-Go-Bra-Less,” someone dubs her).

Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is content with her once-erring husband Steve (David Eigenberg) and child, but at work where she’s senior partner at a law firm, she’s dissed by the chauvinist boss.

As for Samantha (Kim Cattrall), she is single-mindedly obsessed with warding off menopause, and keeping her insatiable sex drive intact.

When her PR skills impress a sheik (Art Malik) at the movie premiere of old flame Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis), she’s offered an all-expense-paid trip to his luxurious hotel in Abu Dhabi (actually Marrakech). Samantha grabs this as the perfect opportunity for the girls to take a break from domesticity and have a dream vacation, Miranda enthusiastically playing guide.

The film strains to have it both ways about its exotic setting. This is as glamorous a portrayal of the Mideast since “Lawrence of Arabia” though you’ll guess that the foursome’s feminism will eventually clash with the repression of women in that Muslim society.

No sooner have they arrived than Carrie meets her old flame Aidan Shaw (John Corbett) which ultimately brings her a crisis of conscience, and Samantha gets the hots for a Danish architect (Max Ryan), running seriously afoul of local customs.

The situation is, of course, improbable, but the characterizations and the relationships between the foursome are as we remember. After a labored start, director-writer Michael Patrick King’s script emerges as generally savvy and amusing, and at least, given all the onscreen profligacy, makes passing reference to the wretched economy. The story, this time around, plays with themes of commitment versus infidelity.

This is laid out in the opening set-piece, the lavish wedding of Carrie’s friends Stanford (Willie Garson) and Anthony (Mario Cantone). Anthony informs Carrie that he and Stanford have agreed on an open marriage, an arrangement that perturbs our three married heroines. This being a gay wedding, the nuptials are officiated by (of all people) Liza Minnelli who, in surprisingly agile form, performs “All the Single Ladies,” for the guests.

There are further cameos by Penelope Cruz and Miley Cyrus. And show buffs will pick out several Broadway names among the roster, including Norm Lewis, Billy Stritch, Kelli O’Hara, Max Von Essen, and Matthew Risch.

Jeremy Conway’s lush production design – the exotic setting, the sumptuous accouterments (from the deluxe airbus, with its private suites for each passenger, and the four luxury sedans which escort the ladies to the hotel) – and John Thomas’ crisp photography are plusses.

The film is smartly constructed to appeal to the fan base, and Samantha’s escapades notwithstanding, comes out on the side of fidelity and true love, though the feel-good ending here doesn’t quite match the touching uplift of the last film.

(Rated R by the MPAA for some strong sexual content and language.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

DVD Review: “Bing Crosby: The Television Specials, Volume One” (Infinity Entertainment Group)

By Harry Forbes

Bing Crosby fans rejoice. This first volume of some of Bing Crosby’s 30-odd television specials is a fascinating time capsule, covering his very first special in 1952 with Jack Benny and Sheree North – a sharp black and white print, by the way, as the hour was shot on film – to a 1970 color hour which brings the crooner up to the then-present with such tunes as “Raindrops Are Falling on My Head” and the Mama Cass hit, “New Day Coming,” is essential viewing.

The theme of the latter show – which also features “bright new Broadway star” Bernadette Peters and Flip Wilson -- is leisure activity, curiously the same theme Crosby explored on his 1962 ABC special.

That earlier, more interesting, program features Bob Hope (who joins Crosby for a long reminiscence about their “Road” movies), Edie Adams, Pete Fountain, and Crosby’s son Gary (looking rather like a chunky Truman Capote) who performs a great duet with his dad.

Throughout, Bing appears nothing but supportive to his son, leading one to ponder the reasons behind the “Daddy Dearest” tome Gary would later write.

Show fans will appreciate Adams’ vibrant version of “Loads of Love” from then then current show “No Strings,” and there are various other period references, including “La Dolce Vita” and the twist dance craze. The retooled production number of “America” from “West Side Story” surely must have given Stephen Sondheim pause at the time.

Also of interest, incidentally, is the appearance of the Smothers Brothers in one of their earliest TV appearances.

There are also some choice extras, including a 1952 edition of the Catholic “Christophers” program in which Crosby, Bob Hope, Phil Harris and golfer Ben Hogan who made a miraculous return to the sport after a horrific car accident, talk about the benefits of positive action; a filmed interview (in color) from golfer Jimmy Demaret’s syndicated program; a 1967 interview with the host of an Australian program called “Girl Talk,” which turns out to be surprisingly revelatory, giving a good sense of Crosby’s chatty, extremely erudite personality; and other choice bits.

The gem of the two-disc set, however, is the 1959 special featuring Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, and Louis Armstrong. This is a classy outing all the way, with a surprisingly strong emphasis on jazz. The highpoint is a segment with Crosby, Sinatra, and Lee backed respectively by three top pianists, Joe Bushkin, Paul Smith, and George Shearing. But there are many outstanding moments here, including Lee’s sultry “Baubles, Bangles & Beads” and “Some of These Days”; Armstrong and Crosby’s “Lazy Bones”; Sinatra’s “Willow Weep for Me” and various duets among the four.

It is interesting to see, in those racially more restrictive era, how much Armstrong was used an integral part or the group. The whole show is an ensemble effort. The print quality of the show is a bit soft, but as with all these items, still basically first-rate.

There are excellent notes by Robert S. Bader, and I look forward to the second volume.

(Infinity Entertainment Group, suggested retail price: $29.98)

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Red Mill (Light Opera of New York)

(l.-r. Kevin Murray, Peter Bűchi; photo credit: Tal Karlin)

By Harry Forbes

Light Opera of New York concluded its three-part Victor Herbert season with “The Red Mill,” a work that veers closer to musical comedy than the operetta genre which dominated the composer’s vast output.

The script, as with the series’ first two productions (“Mlle. Modiste” and “Naughty Marietta”), was altered, and characters (like innkeeper Willem and his daughter Tina) and songs ( “A Widow Has Ways,” “Good-a-bye John”) were dropped. But adapter Alyce Mott did her job tastefully (an intentionally anachronistic use of “road rage” notwithstanding), and the merits of the original shone through, with LOONY overall giving a good account of the piece.

The single narrator device was this time was here divided among cast members which, all in all, made for smoother continuity.

The extravagantly tuneful score (one of Herbert’s most popular) – “compiled” by Little Orchestra Society maestro Dino Anagnost – was, more or less, the same edition Anagnost used at Alice Tully Hall a few seasons back, and it was nicely played, albeit with more modest resources on this occasion, by music director Stephen Vasta and the Ambience Strings.

The small vocal ensemble (four men, four women) sounded crisp and well drilled, and made the concerted numbers – like the opening chorus of artists and models – especially pleasurable.

The soloists were uniformly strong. Elizabeth Hillebrand had presence and charm as the soubrette Gretchen. Tenor Matthew Hughes matched her vocally with his sweet tenor as her love interest Captain Van Damm. But the romantic aspects of the pair took second place to comedy.

As Gretchen’s aunt, the widow Berta, Jane Brendler Bűchi was a decided asset, even if far too young and attractive to be the sister of the crotchety old Burgomaster (well played by William Tost).

Kevin Murray and Peter Bűchi had what were originally the show’s star parts, Con Kidder and Kid Connor, the American duo who ultimately save the day. These were the roles originated by the team of Montgomery and Stone in 1906. But Murray and Bűchi did well, albeit shorn of most of the comic shtick of their predecessors, save their impersonations of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

The reliable Richard Holmes livened up proceedings with the second act showstopper, “Every Day is Ladies Day with Me,” delivering a satisfyingly rich-voiced rendition, after which he blended most attractively with Ms. Bűchi in the lovely “Because You’re You.”

Other roles were taken by an extravagantly over-the-top Leslie Middlebrook as a French speaking dowager, Brian Wagner as the shifty sheriff with his eyes on Berta, and Lee Moore as a British solicitor who delivers a surprising revelation at the eleventh hour.

Gary Slavin directed and choreographed the cast resourcefully and staged the peppy numbers, “Go While the Goin’ is Good” and “You Never Can Tell About a Woman” with appropriate vaudevillian swagger.

Next season, LOONY has an especially ambitious program, the post-Herbert Romberg and Friml biggies, “The Desert Song,” “The Vagabond King,” and “The Student Prince.” If the company can maintain the high standards of this first full season -- and find three physically dashing, vocally solid, and charismatic leading men for the star parts -- the season should be a knockout.

(The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South, 866-811-4111 or; May 20 only)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Letters to Juliet (Summit Entertainment)

By Harry Forbes

It is incredibly moving to see Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero reunited on screen 43 years after burning up the screen in the underrated film version of “Camelot” in which they played Guinevere and Lancelot.

“Letters to Juliet” could not, in fact, be a better showcase for them at this time of life. Redgrave is a British dowager who seeks to reunite with the handsome Italian farm worker she met while an art student there 50 years before. Before their planned elopement, she lost her nerve and now, widowed, she’s searching for him throughout the region, her disapproving grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) in tow.

The catalyst for all this is Sophie (played by the seemingly ubiquitous Amanda Seyfried). She’s a fact-checker for The New Yorker with journalist aspirations, and has come to Verona for a pre-honeymoon with her hyper and self-absorbed chef fiancé Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), who is more interested in checking out the local vineyards than spending time with his intended.

While sightseeing on her own at “Juliet’s Courtyard,” Sophie is intrigued by the scores of women leaving love notes for Juliet on the wall beneath her balcony, and at the end of the day, she observes the notes being carefully removed from the wall, and gathered in a basket.

It seems all the letters are dutifully answered by a colorful group of Italian volunteer women. Sophie joins them while Victor is otherwise engaged, and soon comes across a decades-old letter tucked deep into the wall; it’s young Claire asking for advice on the impending elopement. Sophie answers the letter, prompting Claire’s visit.

The bulk of the film has Claire, Charlie, and Sophie combing the countryside, tracking down numerous Lorenzo’s of every stripe (even a priest!) before, at long last, discovering the real one.

Though the succession of wrong Lorenzo’s becomes a little, well, repetitious, the payoff – when Redgrave and Nero finally come face to face – is all the more effective. It’s quite a heart-stopping moment.

Of course, there’s added resonance and poignancy in knowing about Nero and Redgrave’s offscreen “Camelot” romance which resulted in a son, Carlo Nero (now a film director), and their reuniting later in life, finally marrying in 2006.

Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan’s script might have made Victor a little less patently self-absorbed, and Charlie’s transformation from stuffy twit to sympathetic good-guy is terrible sudden. So, too, there’s a final scene for Sophie and Victor that would have been best left out. It’s clunky, disrupts the romantic flow, and shows neither character in the best light. But otherwise, I was happy to succumb to the story’s romantic charm.

Though Redgrave has played many more serious roles, she has never been more luminous here. It’s just a lovely performance full of warmth and palpable maternal caring for both her grandson and Claire.

Seyfried makes a highly watchable dewy-eyed heroine, and Egan makes a likable leading man once he abjures his priggish ways.

It must be said that the warm-hearted Italian correspondents – Luisa Raneri and Luisa DeSantis among them -- are extremely well cast and make a delightful group.

From the artful opening credit sequence of lovers over the centuries, the film looks smashing, courtesy of production designer Stuart Wurtzel and director of photography Marco Pontecorvo. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and clearly, the movie will appeal to those who loved “Enchanted April,” “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and films of that ilk.

Director Gary Winick redeems himself after his last romantic comedy, the execrable “Bride Wars.”

Predictability and some script deficiencies aside, this is a touching romance that transcends the chick flick genre.

(Rated PG by the MPAA or brief rude behavior, some language and incidental smoking.)

Just Wright (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

By Harry Forbes

“Just Wright” is so predictable there’s nary a line of dialogue you won’t anticipate before it’s uttered, and yet it is all so pleasantly agreeable, the film – mild entertainment at best -- is difficult to dislike.

It helps to have the immensely empathetic Queen Latifah as your lead. She plays Leslie Wright, a physical therapist, 35 and single, living with her parents and her glamorous “god-sister” Morgan (Paula Patton, the kindly teacher from “Precious”) who attracts all the guys, while Leslie consoles herself with her work and her rabid passion for basketball.

Leslie’s blind dates never work out; they take her for a “home girl,” and just want to be “friends.”

Morgan is hell-bent on snaring a basketball star so she can live high on the hog as an NBA wife. After a game, Leslie meets New Jersey Nets star player Scott McKnight (Common) at a gas station, and they take an instant liking to each other. He invites her to his birthday party that weekend.

Leslie falls for him, but good sport that she is, takes Morgan along. No sooner do Scott and Leslie begin to hit it off that Morgan disingenuously breaks in and bats her eyes at Scott. The self-deprecating Leslie feels unworthy of Scott’s attention, and more or less abdicates to Morgan. Before long, Scott and the materialistic Morgan are engaged, but when Scott suffers a serious torn ligament on the court, guess who becomes his therapist? And when it looks like he may never recover, guess who dumps him?

Leslie nurses him back to health, and then Morgan…well, you can guess the rest.

The formulaic script (by Michael Elliot) is short on genuine laughs, and seems so concerned with everyone being decent and civilized that there’s virtually no dramatic conflict at all. So, for example, the expected cat-fight between Leslie and Morgan never happens. And Morgan isn’t even portrayed as an all-out bitch, as you might expect. She’s superficial, but basically decent.

Leslie’s dad Lloyd is her staunchest support, though mother Janice (Pam Grier) somewhat reinforces her daughter’s low opinion of herself. To compensate for that, Scott’s mom (Phylicia Rashad), disapproves of Morgan, but takes a shine to the down-to-earth Leslie.

Sanaa Hamri directs the domestic scenes capably, and the court action with some flair. Common is very good in his first starring role, and projects leading man charisma and quiet strength, though it’s not much of a part.

Like the concurrently released PG-rated “Letters to Juliet,” the film is admirably wholesome (not always a virtue in itself). The one love scene between Latifah and Common is as innocuous as a bedroom scene can possible be.

The film espouses decent values like beauty coming from within, nurturing solid family relationships, remembering where you came from, and living by the right values.

A stronger plotline – and more of the sort of humor that occasionally peeps through (e.g. Leslie flooring Scott and his mom by rattling off Scott’s basketball stats from years before) -- would have been welcome.

All in all, the film seems to reflect the nice, easy-going manner of Latifah herself, which is not a bad thing at all, but this should have been much better.

(Rated PG by the MPAA for some suggestive material and brief language.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Everyday Rapture (Roundabout Theatre Company/American Airlines Theatre)

By Harry Forbes

I didn’t see “Everyday Rapture” in its Off-Broadway run at Second Stage Theatre, but Sherie Rene Scott’s well-received semi-autobiographical mini-musical fits the large stage of the American Airlines Theatre well enough from a physical viewpoint. (The show was a hasty substitute for the cancelled revival of Terrence McNally’s “Lips Together, Teeth Apart.”)

Her script co-written by Dick Scalan, Scott begins with tales of her Mennonite upbringing in Topeka, Kansas where she found herself torn between “two lovers”: Jesus (via her heavily religious background) and Judy (as in Garland) whose songs proved highly influential. These two idols converge when she sings Garland’s “You Made Me Love You” against a succession of highly florid pictures of Jesus.

Her third idol was, of all people, Fred Rogers (of the PBS neighborhood that bears his name), whose uncontroversial message of love and tolerance turned out not to sit well with certain of her fundamentalist friends from back home.

It was her gay cousin Jerome – who would die of AIDS – who helped set her on a path that would lead her away Rev. Fred Phelps' Baptist Church and the intolerance around her, to the Big Apple where she had an unhappy fling with a magician (providing an opportunity for some onstage magic here), and eventually, a series of choice secondary roles in big musicals. Well, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Aida,” and “The Little Mermaid,” are not exactly chopped liver, but Scott’s self-deprecating stance as a “semi-star” is a huge part of her charm.

With an eclectic assortment of songs – mostly of the non-show tune variety by the likes of David Byrne, Roberta Flack, The Supremes, Elton John, Tom Waits, U2 and yes, Mister Rogers – Scott charts not a typical showbiz-ladder narrative, but more of a spiritual journey, as she mulls the contradictory scraps of paper she says she keeps in each pocket: "I am a speck of dust" on one, "The world was created for me" on the other. She ultimately comes to a middle-ground ideal.

A discourse involving a four-leaf clover, her young son, and the family cat, takes on surprising profundity as a life lesson, without being at all heavy-handed.

The most overtly theatrical portion of the show involves a rabid internet groupie (the very funny Eamon Foley) whom Scott compassionately attempts to engage in an email exchange, much to her ultimate chagrin, as her ego takes a good battering.

Though in essence, this is a one-woman show, she is, in fact, backed by Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe – the Mennonettes – as her semi-fictional character morphs from insecure small-town gal to confident Broadway belter.

Against Christine Jones’ astral backdrop, lit by Kevin Adams, the show is sharply directed by Michael Mayer who demonstrates he can do intimate as well as spectacular (the latter evidenced by this season’s “American Idiot”). That Green Day show’s arranger, Tom Kitt, has skillfully performed like duty here.

All the technical aspects are fine, though surprisingly I found not every word ideally clear in either the songs or the spoken portions.

Scott is so talented and likable that you follow her 90-minute journey with intense sympathy, even as the material – original and often very clever as it is – doesn’t quite seem Broadway material. There’s no question, however, that the lady herself most certainly does.

(American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street, 212-719-1300 or; through July 11)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Collected Stories (Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre)

By Harry Forbes

The role of Ruth Steiner has been good for Linda Lavin. She played the part in Gil Cates’ production at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles nearly a decade ago, and recreated it as part of PBS inaugural presentation of its short-lived series “PBS Hollywood Presents” in 2002 playing opposite her Geffen co-star Samantha Mathis.

The role of the esteemed author and her protégé, an aspiring writer who becomes her personal assistant – a not-quite “All About Eve” dynamic – still fits her beautifully. Sardonically humorous, supremely self-assured, ever watchful of encroachment on her turf, she takes the unconfident, and adoring student under wing, and throughout the course of the play’s six scenes, the tables turn, Lisa finding success for her own stories, less needful of the older woman’s advice and approval, and Ruth – becoming more mindful of her own mortality -- becoming dependent on Lisa’s feedback herself.

But before that, genuine affection grows between the idolatrous Lisa and the till-then happily independent Ruth, something of a mother-daughter relationship, with Ruth seeing her younger self in Lisa. But a sort of professional rivalry, and ultimately, an enormous betrayal, mar the bond, when Ruth makes the mistake of confiding a long-ago affair (in the 1950’s) with the great poet Delmore Schwartz. It happens that in real life he was an alcoholic and a womanizer, so this fictional romance is entirely plausible.

After exhausting her own journals, Lisa feels she’s run out of material from her own limited life, and needs to expand her scope. Ruth’s rich back story provides the perfect fodder.

It is here that Margulies also grapples with the issue of authorship. Do we really own the rights to our own life stories? And when is the appropriate time for us – or for others – to tell them? Margulies has said that author David Leavitt’s much publicized appropriation of Stephen Spender’s life as an inspiration. In any case, he convincingly shows us both sides of the argument.

Lavin’s portrayal has, if anything, deepened over the intervening years, and having watched the PBS version again recently, I’d say her fine 2002 performance now seems a work in progress for the even more richly detailed performance she gives here, allowing for the fact that her performance was scaled down for the small screen, and the text itself discreetly trimmed (“less discursive,” Marguilies said at the time).

Sarah Paulson matches Lavin every step of the way, playing Lisa for the most part sympathetically, but evincing more than a little ambition and, in her way, behaving as shrewdly as Ruth. She also makes you genuinely believe in her character’s passion for writing. In fact, both ladies seem to truly “be” the characters they’re playing, not merely acting.

Lynne Meadow directs this version with great sensitivity on Santo Loquasto’s very appealing book-lined Village apartment, scoring another Margulies hit for Manhattan Theatre Club right after his absorbing “Time Stands Still” on the same stage.

(MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street, or 212-239-6200)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Promises, Promises (The Broadway Theatre)

By Harry Forbes

Sean Hayes didn’t make it to Broadway two years ago after Encores mounted its delightful, and eminently worthy, summer revival of “Damn Yankees,” playing the diabolical Applegate. Critics received it coolly, and a hoped-for transfer never came about.

But he’s back, having traded Applegate’s red socks for the corporate duds of a Manhattan insurance company, and he’s even more winning as an ambitious nebbishy junior executive courting favor with his superiors by reluctantly lending them the key to his apartment for adulterous trysts, while he harbors a crush on the demure executive dining room waitress Fran Kubelik played with low-keyed charm by Kristin Chenoweth.

If you know the property, or the Billy Wilder classic, “The Apartment,” upon which the musical is based, you’ll remember that in short order, Chuck learns that the innocent looking Fran is, in fact, romantically involved with the oily (and very much married) head of personnel J.D. Sheldrake (a solid Tony Goldwyn).

This production transposes the time period from 1968 (when “Promises, Promises” was first done) to 1962, presumably to curry favor with “Mad Men” fans, and perhaps make the sexual shenanigans more palatable, though there’s still a genuine (if intentional) sordidness to the premise. Still, with “The Apartment” set in 1960, the time shift is not implausible.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s score – orchestrated, like the original, by Jonathan Tunick -- bubbles as brightly as ever. This was a contemporary pop sound quite unlike anything heard in musicals before and, since they never wrote another book musical, since. Under music director Phil Reno, the score still sounds fresh. (A 2003 Broadway anthology of Bacharach-David songs, “The Look of Love,” was deservedly short-lived.)

Director Rob Ashford had the unenviable task of emulating Michael Bennett’s choreography and transitional movement, and has done an excellent job. The dancers are terrific, cartwheeling across the office, flipping over desks, and leap-frogging over each other with deft precision.

Chenoweth has been given two Bacharach-David evergreens to beef up her smallish and largely passive role: “I Say a Little Prayer” and “A House is Not a Home.” They are, of course, utterly gratuitous but don’t mar the whole, especially as she sings them so well. Each garners a big hand.

In contrast to her high-flying soprano, Chenoweth here uses her pop voice which can sound a little steely at times, but on the whole, she sings with sensitivity and understanding of the period style, being particularly effective in the quiet numbers. Of course, good as Chenoweth is, I’ll always hear originator Jill O’Hara’s distinctively adorable voice in my ear.

Like the role’s originator Marion Mercer and the 1998 Encores revival’s Christine Baranski, Katie Finneran very nearly steals the show as a soused barfly Chuck encounters at a divey bar. Finneran makes every line count as she drunkenly insists she’s no mere “pick-up,” meanwhile sending out every sort of signal to the contrary.

Neil Simon’s book really soars here, and indeed throughout is an expert distillation of Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s original movie script. It’s fun to hear many of the period New York references that remain: Cinemas 1 and 2, Brentano’s (book store), the boat to Bear Mountain, and the Late Show, to name a few.

Also delivering a gem of a comic portrayal is Dick Latessa as the kindly doctor next door who ministers to Fran when she overdoses on Chuck’s sleeping pills.

As noted, there’s strong support from Goldwyn who does well with his big solo, “Wanting Things.” And the four executives who use Chuck’s pad are especially well cast with Brooks Ashmanskas, Sean Martin Hingston, Peter Benson, and Ken Land.

Wearing his directing hat, Ashford scores with both the comic and dramatic scenes. This “Promises, Promises” is exceptionally well acted, and the denouement is quite touching.

Scott Task and Bruce Task on set and costumes respectively capture the era with period-perfect cheery colors, all brightly lit by Donald Holder.

(Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway, or 212-239-6200)