Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Originally written for three leading ladies, Reams has added a fourth. The headliner is Susan Anton, best known for her career in the 1970s and '80s. A likeable beauty, Anton is best when kidding herself as well as the audience. The problems arise when she has to play a character and her discomfort is obvious, words are forgotten, and notes are not hit. Pro that she is, I am sure this will smooth out as the run progresses.
Luckily, we have Klea Blackhurst to keep the evening thrilling. That voice! Her version of, yes, "I Am What I Am" is the showstopper that is so sorely needed. What Mr. Reams has done is to have the shows chronologically featured. In act one we have Milk and Honey, Hello, Dolly! and Mame. The songs are overly familiar (do we really need the endless "Bosom Buddies" again with an encore?) and the act drags because of it. The addition of six chorus boys does give bursts of energy, but it seems as though, especially in the first act, everything but the kitchen sink has been thrown onstage.
In act two, things settle down and are quite wonderful. Dear World, Mack and Mabel, The Grand Tour and La Cage aux Folles are highlighted. The first three have scores nowhere near as popular as the last and this makes the final hour much more enjoyable and relaxing. Ms. Anton seemed to be enjoying herself in this act, as well.
Reams's best idea was to have the aforementioned ladies abetted by two gorgeous creatures, Julie Kavanagh and Lauren Sprague. Kavanagh's belt and Sprague's huge soprano bring beauty and intelligence to Herman's lyrics. In addition, Kavanagh is a madcap delight in "Tap Your Troubles Away," backed by "the boys." Speaking of them, the fellas are terrific in the opening of LaCage due, primarily, to the sparkling choreography of Emily Tarallo. The drag is spot on, as are all of the other, many, many costume changes throughout, designed by Jim Buff.
The musical direction by James Followell is superb and while singer and trio (Followell on piano, Julie Jacobs on drums, and Rupert Ziawinski on bass) were not always together at the performance I attended, this, too, should correct itself with time. Lighting and sound, by Ginny Adams and Justin Thompson, are excellent.
Marilynn Wick, founder of the theatre, is giving the audience what they want. The opening night crowd loved the show. I wish I had. When something has been done with great success, why attempt to reconfigure it? I am thinking of the revivals of How to Succeed, Flower Drum Song, West Side Story, in particular. It worked at one time, very well. The new, younger audience deserves to see and understand what theatre was like "back then," don't they?
That said, the music of Jerry Herman is thrilling. So, go, enjoy yourselves and be sure to have your "listening ears" on.
Jerry's Girls plays until May 13 at The Wick Theatre, located at 7901 No. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, FL. 33487 Please call 561-995-233 for tickets or go to www.thewick.org