A breezy visit to the 1950s performed by a terrific cast.
By Joel Benjamin
Can contemporary performers, raised on fast-paced, profane videos, the internet, iPhones and apps re-create the less technologically advanced, more direct performing style of early Fifties musicals? Unsung Musicals Company’s Bless You All! proves that the answer is a resounding “yes”! This charming troupe of eleven dancer/singers acquit themselves brilliantly… and they look smashing in evening wear…and they performed without microphones!
Bless You All! is decidedly lightweight, a revue that alternates songs with comedy skits. It demands that you enter the theatre and just give yourself up to having a good time in the company of stylish songs by the inimitable Harold Rome (Fanny, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, etc.) and literate, comically rich skits by Arnold Auerbach and, of all people, Herman Wouk.
Two of the skits actually have a lighthearted relevance. “Without Reservations” is the tale of a “nobody” trying to get into a posh restaurant, here, with tongue in cheek, called Club 22. Try as he might, Harry Cooper cannot get in, despite having a reservation, until he becomes homicidal, gets his name in the paper and is suddenly “famous”!
In “T.V. Over the White House,” a presidential candidate is groomed for a campaign waged entirely on television, which involves a great deal of truth stretching. Sound familiar?
The songs ranged from the bright welcoming, “Bless You All” to a sophisticated “Love Letter to Manhattan” to a breezy “Take Off the Coat.”
The entire cast took to this easy-breezy style—and the lack of electronic amplification—like the clichéd ducks to water. Lindsay Roberts hit all the worldly notes in “Love Letter to Manhattan” while Jeremy Benton was both debonair and boyish in “A Rose is a Rose.” Christopher Ryan was particularly good as the easily manipulated presidential candidate. Emilee Dupré had a very sexy presence, particularly in the opening number and a pastiche bit, “The Roaring 20s Strike Back” where she danced with two terrific tappers, Brent McBeth and Clifton Samuels who stylishly sashayed around the stage. Ruth Pferdehirt transformed “Little Things” into a sweet reverie while Billie Wildrick in a white feather boa turned “When?” into a plea to belong. Jennifer Lee Crowl, dancing with Mr. Benton, was lovely and airy in “Summer Dresses,” an ode to the female sex in their warm weather gear. Jacob Hoffman’s imperiously phony reservation clerk in “Without Reservation” was hilarious as was Aaron Kaburick as the blocked writer, Jasper, in “Southern Fried Chekhov.”
Ben West directed with attention to detail. Ray Hesselink’s choreography was period perfect as were the elegant costumes of Heather J. Carey.
The 51st Street Jazz Trio—John Covertino, Justin Hoffman & Fran Minarik—provided perfect accompaniment.
Bless You All! – September 21st-October 5th
220 East 4th St. – between Aves. A & B
New York, NY
Tickets: www.SmartTix.com or 212-868-4444
More Information: www.unsungmusicals.org