By Ron Fassler
It’s true that “Anything Can Happen in the Theatre.” It’s one of the reasons those attend it heavily (or even lightly) and who go hoping that something magical might happen at any given moment. After all, at the movies, the 2:00pm show will always go the same way as the 5:00pm one. The line readings are a constant; the images fixed. In the new Off-Broadway musical revue Anything Can Happen in the Theatre, which opened at the York Theatre Dec. 4 evening, many such magical moments come alive in a winning production. Featuring a talented cast of five, the audience is transported for seventy-five minutes to (as stated in its subtitle) “The Musical World of Maury Yeston.” It’s a world I want to live in.
Since his Broadway debut, Maury Yeston has won two Tony Awards for Best Score: Nine (1982) and Titanic (1997), which are both bountifully rich and deeply moving. There is a sweep and elegance to his work, that can also be heard in the music he composed in 1989 for Tommy Tune’s Grand Hotel, most of which he came up with on the fly while that musical was in trouble out of town during its pre-Broadway engagement in Boston. As Yeston recalled in an interview last year with Playbill: “I think Tommy felt he was going to direct the hell out of it, and he certainly did, but it wasn’t working well, and he called me on August 29. They were going to open on Broadway in November. He said, ‘Yeston, I have a room for you at the Ritz Carlton Hotel with a piano. Come save the show.’”
Which he did.
Yeston has also had his share of shows that didn’t make it to Broadway (one of them, a version of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, that was conceived around the same time as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s, has had numerous productions the world over). He’s also composed songs not written expressly for any particular show (one of which, “Strange,” as performed by Alex Getlin, is a highlight of Anything Can Happen). As conceived and directed by Gerard Alessandrini (the creator of Forbidden Broadway in all its various editions), Yeston’s work is treated with reverence as well as a touch of mischief. Justin Keyes excels during “Salt n’ Pepper” as a chef enjoying the ways of the kitchen, and Ben Eakeley has a field day with “Only with You,” the great comic ballad from Nine. Jovan E’Sean brings a languid fluidity of movement and a sweet voice to all of his material, and Mamie Parris excels at just about everything she does. A soprano with an air of naughtiness about her, she has the ability to both send up and dig deep into the songs with which she is tasked. And she gets some of the best of them, especially in essaying two different characters in Nine with her renditions of “Call from the Vatican” and “A Man Like You/Unusual Way.” Gerry McIntrye has contributed some imaginative dancing, all gracing a handsome and homey set design by the York Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director James Morgan.
Special mention must be made, too, of the show’s Musical Director Greg Jarrett, who played the entire evening beautifully from his perch upstage at the piano.
I can pleasantly report that upon leaving the theatre, luxuriating in Yeston’s masterful melodies, a phrase of Shakespeare’s came to mind: “If music be the food of love, play on.”
Anything Can Happen in the Theatre “plays on” through December 29th at the York Theatre Company (in Saint Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street). www.yorktheatre.org