Spamilton’s Gerard Alessandrini gives songwriter, Maury Yeston his due.
By Joel Benjamin
Gerard Alessandrini’s resume may seem overflowing with his many legendary Forbidden Broadway shows and his current Spamilton but this genial genius of theatrical satire has produced yet another show: Anything Can Happen in the Theater: The Songs of Maury Yeston at the Triad Theater on West 72nd Street, a warm, revue-style entertainment that gives Yeston his due with expert renditions of a fine cross-section from his cache of songs.
Yeston’s music and lyrics are situated somewhere between Rodgers and Hammerstein and Sondheim, his music lush but often going off in strange directions and his lyrics literate and full of emotion.
The show has a subtle rhythm, a flow of emotions from one performer to the other. After the hijinks of the witty opening number, the light-hearted anthem, “Anything Can Happen in the Theater,” in which the entire cast camped it up with every theatrical cliché, each singer got a chance to shine, starting with Jill Paice (a superb soprano who makes every note count) saucily jiggling to a medley of “Shimmy” from Death Takes a Holiday and “Hollywood” from Grand Hotel. Ms. Paice squeezed every bit of sexuality from “Call from the Vatican” and all he longing from “Unusual Way,” both from Nine.
The extraordinarily experienced Robert Cuccioli (whose voice gets more expressive and stronger with age) sang “Love Can’t Happen,” from Grand Hotel, his nearly operatic voice easily hitting that famous last note. He was tender in “New Words” from In the Beginning, a song in which a father teaches a child the words that describe the world around him, and was properly befuddled and anxious in “Guido’s Song” from Nine.
Alex Getlin had a charming tremor in her voice which gave the casual despair of unrequited love of “Danglin’” great depth and the brand new song, “Strange,” immense color, taking advantage of its soft tango rhythms.
Two younger men completed the cast. Michael Maliakel, tall and slender, possessing a light voice of great dexterity, was boyishly hopeful in “I Had a Dream About You” from December Songs and deliciously sultry in the bluesy “Mississippi Moon” from The Lottery. He joined up with Justin Keyes turning “You’re There Too” from In the Beginning into a humorous male bonding ritual.
Mr. Keyes, with his razor-sharp pop tenor was given the lighter numbers at first, including “Salt ‘N’ Pepper” (The Lottery) which turned every food and cooking chore into a double entendre for sex, and was youthfully bemused in “Halloween,” a new song which was a wistful take on how another year slipped by. Mr. Keyes’ final solo, “I Stand Alone” (from Goya) was a deeper version of Paul Anka’s “My Way,” in which a man stands up for the way he has lived his life.
The singers joined forces for some impressive harmony in “St. Sebastian” from Nine in which Guido (Cuccioli) remembers his parochial school days, complete with evil nuns, hypocritical priests and choral singing (provided by the other four). The five ended the show with the lovely “Home” (from Yeston’s Phantom), a paean to the pleasures of that institution.
Alessandrini directed with an eye to pacing, letting each singer have their way with their songs. The staging was simple, involving the actors appearing from behind a poster for the show and sometimes jumping into the audience.
A strangely homophobic theme, in which one of the actors acted annoyed when touched by another gent, even though the action was innocent enough, slightly marred the proceedings.
But, other than that, Anything Can Happen in the Theater was a total delight and will hopefully extend its run or find another venue.
The unbelievably dexterous and colorful playing of Greg Jarrett on the piano was the musical backbone of the show. He was terrific.
Photos: Carol Rosegg
Anything Can Happen in the Theater:: The Songs of Maury Yeston
The Triad Theater (through October 21, 2017)
158 West 72nd Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues
New York, NY
For tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit www.triadnyc.com
Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission