Review by Linda Amiel Burns
The York Theater has been presenting Musicals in Mufti since 1994 and “A Time For Singing” is the 99th show in the series. People ask what “Mufti” means and, according to Jim Morgan, the Producing Artistic Director, it is a term that the British Army learned in India, meaning “in street clothes, without the usual trappings” and so these under appreciated musicals have been staged in concert performances and given new life.
“A Time For Singing” is based on Richard Llewellyn’s 1939 best-selling novel, How Green Was My Valley that won the 1940 National Book Award. The Oscar winning film was released in 1941, produced by Darryl Zanuck, directed by John Ford and starred Maureen O’Hara, Walter Pidgeon and Roddy McDowell. It is the story of the Morgan’s, a close, hard-working Welsh mining family living in the heart of South Wales in the 19th century. The story chronicles the destruction of the environment in their Valley, the struggles of the men to form a union for safety and fair wages, the loss of a way of life and its effects on the family.
Gerald Freedman and John Morris (book & lyrics) and John Morris (music) worked on the musical version, “A Time For Singing,” for nearly a decade and in 1966 the show opened on Broadway directed by Freedman, produced by Alexander H. Cohen, starring Tessie O’Shea, Lawrence Naismith, Ivor Emmanuel, Shani Wallis and George Hearn in his first Broadway appearance. The show played only 51 performances and recently critic Ken Mandelbaum said that this show was a “precursor of the sung-through musical dramas and that the score was richer and more serious than that of most shows of the period.”
This show has developed a cult following and last year a CD with the original cast was released. It was felt that “A Time For Singing” was an overlooked gem and deserved another look. The York assembled a cast of extraordinary singers to perform this lush score because, although there is dialogue, there is “far more music than as typical” for shows of the time. Michael Montel did a great job directing this show with a difficult and serious theme. This is his 20th Mufti, more than any other director.
“Come You Men” opens the show with the strong male chorus singing. Then the adult Huw Morgan (Greg Walter) narrates the proceeding and sings with the chorus “How Green Was My Valley” remembering the town of his childhood. The lovely soprano Analisa Leaming played 17 year old Angharad who is in love with the pastor Mr. Griffith (Glenn Seven Allen) 20 years her senior. The owner of the mine Mr. Evans (Joseph Kolinsiki) has a son Iestyn (Gus Halper) whom she marries, although in love with Griffith. The Morgan family has four grown sons who clash with their father played by Gordon Stanley. The youngest son, Huw (terrific child actor Dylan Boyd) is only age 8, but promises his mother, Beth (Barbara Marineau) that he would never leave as his older brothers had done. Preston Truman Boyd, who has an outstanding voice played Ivor Morgan, and the love duet “There Is Beautiful You Are” with Bronwen (Sarah Killough), is quite moving. One of the best songs is the joyful “A Time For Singing,” sung as the town celebrates the double wedding, that ended the first act. Wisely, it was reprised as the entire cast sang it to close the show.
Kudos to Musicals In Mufti for remembering what otherwise would have been lost.
Next Up in the Mufti Series:
Stephen Sondheim’s Saturday Night – Nov. 8-9 12-16
Ahren & Flaherty’s My Favorite Year – Dec. 5-7
Visit: www.YorkTheatre.org or phone 212 935-5820