Presented by the York Theatre Company, casting by Norman Meranus, at the Theatre at St. Peter's, Citigroup Center, 619 Lexington Ave., NYC, Feb. 28-March 20.
Falling somewhere between a vanity production and a celebratory one, the York Theatre Company's "LingoLand" is mild and pleasant. But the self-billed "cheeky, freaky jamboree" is also scattered and superfluous. Although Kenward Elmslie, who narrates this revue of his lyrics, is winning in an avuncular way, his mere presence is the main unifying force in an evening that is, to paraphrase another wordsmith, starry-eyed and vaguely disconnected.
Elmslie's 31-year relationship with the late poet and artist Joe Brainard supplies the connective tissue. Otherwise, this is a potpourri, interspersed with some uncomfortable attempts at politics and sophistication, plus information that both Nat "King" Cole and Mabel Mercer sang his lyrics.
Not that there aren't virtues to applaud, beginning with a talented cast that switches from pop to musicals to opera with ease. They all have their moments in the spotlight, so it's doing no harm to single out Jeanne Lehman, whose rendition of "Chain of Love" from "The Grass Harp" stops the show. In fact, "Harp," with music by Claibe Richardson, accounts for many highlights.
Others in the company, all of whom are personable, are Jane Bodle, Jason Dula, Steve Routman, and Lauren Shealy. Conducting the first-class band is music director and arranger Matt Castle, who not only plays piano and synthesizer but also joins the cast on stage at one point.
James Morgan is credited with the spare, crisp direction and scenic design, which uses decorative though mostly pointless visuals by various artists. Painted on walls and floor are words from Elmslie's catalogue—"dinghy…estuary…asteroid"—yet the revue doesn't really particularize the prolific lyricist-poet-librettist's talent for clever expressions.
Jack Lee is the music supervisor. The harmonies are lovely and Janet Watson's musical staging is inventive. But "LingoLand" won't linger in memory.