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Reviews

The Girl Friend in Concert

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Presented by Musicals Tonight!, casting by Stephen DeAngelis, at the MainStage of the 14th Street YMHA, 344 E. 14 St., NYC, May 18-June 6.

Musicals Tonight! revived Rodgers and Hart's 1926 "The Girl Friend," a musical comedy noted for one famous ballad, "The Blue Room," as well as "Why Do I?," "I'd Like to Take You Home to Meet My Mother," and the title song. Herbert Fields' book turned out to be much lighter weight than his own "A Connecticut Yankee" or Rodgers and Hart's later "Babes in Arms" and "The Boys From Syracuse." As a show, "The Girl Friend" is extremely formulaic, resembling many musical comedies of the period.

Nevertheless, Thomas Mills' production has its charms, including two clever dance numbers. This concert revival also includes songs cut from the original production: the lovely ballad "Sleepy Head" and the witty "Pipes of Pansy," sung in brilliant counterpoint to "Creole Love Song" as performed in James Stenborg's vocal arrangement.

The wispy plot concerns Lenny Silver's wish to be a professional six-day bicycle racer. When an influential sports promoter visits his training camp (actually his aunt's dairy farm) in answer to letters forged by Lenny's trainer and girlfriend, Mollie, Spencer's flirtatious sister Wynn sets out to seduce Lenny. How Mollie eventually gets Lenny back provides the story's conflict.

As often in these old musical comedies, the secondary roles offer more opportunities than the bland romantic leads. As the champion's girlfriend, Jennifer Winegardner makes a wry comedienne out of Irene. Todd Buonopane as the champion himself provides a blustery hothead. Playing both Aunt Fanny and opera singer Madame de Lily, Celia Tackaberry nearly steals both of her major scenes. And vivacious Nanne Puritz turns Wynn into a world-class vamp.

Ashton Byrum and Carey Anderson make a lovely couple in underwritten roles, and Anderson does a memorable drunk scene. As Wynn's stuffy fiancé, Shane Peterman demonstrates a fine light baritone. Trip Plymale has some fun with the role of the promoter.

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