by: Alix Cohen
For Goodness Sake ran only 100 performances on Broadway in 1922, but made Fred and Adele Astaire the toast of London when, after changes, it took up residence in the West End. The estimable Musicals Tonight has rescued the piece from obscurity fulfilling its mission to entertain and illuminate through productions we would otherwise never see.
Like most musicals of its time, this one runs long on dialogue and short on plot. Unfortunately, it also comes up short on compensating charm. Some numbers have nothing to do with what’s happening (or anything else, in the case of “The Whichness of Whatness”); most dim against the few Gershwin tunes.
The scenario offers three intertwined love stories. Vivacious, sought after Vivianne (Amber Guest) is engaged to rich, handsome Perry (Brandon Andrus). Both are natural flirts. Having caught him in what she assumes was a compromised position, Vivianne is doing her best to make Perry jealous. It’s driving him crazy.
18 year-old Suzanne (Sarah Rolleston) is head over heels about Teddy (Sean Bell) whom she met on the crossing to England. Teddy, alas, is infatuated with the worldly Vivianne. How can Suzanne help him see he’s being used by a woman who will never return his affections? Adele and Fred Astaire played these second bananas, breaking into dance at every opportunity.
Vivianne’s former school mate, Marjory (Natalie Beck), having fallen in love with a photograph of Geoff (Nathan L. Freeman), sent the young soldier (WW I) hand knit socks with a picture of herself stuffed in the toe. It was not an era in which she could’ve been any more aggressive. His unexpected appearance at the house party confirms Margory’s feelings. For Geoff, it’s love at first (real) sight.
Perry is Marjory’s guardian. Though the men are friends, will he sanction the marriage? Only, it seems, if Geoff helps him secure Vivianne. A scheme is hatched. Nothing works out as planned, of course. Add to this, a plot-point-only character named Bobby (Matt Dumont) out to break a flying record from England to America and the cavalier, unabashedly gold-digging Count (Jason Simon) who provides comedy.
Two familiar numbers “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” (performed four times, three of which feel inappropriate) and “Tra-la-la (This Time It’s Really Love)” are later used to better advantage in An American in Paris. There are jaunty Oh gee, oh gosh, oh golly, I love you songs, balladic I love you songs, Isn’t it pretty out tonight verses and comedy tunes.
The game company does the best it can with an old chestnut. Amber Guest and Brandon Andrus create appealing vocal duets. Guest manifests a more than credible diva. Choreography could be more period specific, but Sarah Rolleston and Sean Bell bring fizzy energy to their dancing. Neither Natalie Beck nor Nathan L. Freeman seem comfortable with the material. Jason Simon has some wonderful moments as the count. His is the only accent (purposefully silly Italian) that sounds apt. Elsewhere, British inflections come and go.
Photos by Michael Portantiere
Musicals Tonight presents
For Goodness Sake
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin, Arthur Jackson, B.G.DeSylva, Scuyler Greene
Music by George Gershwin, William Daley, Milton Schwartzwald, Paul Lanin, Louis Silvers
Directed and Choreographed by Thomas Sabella-Mills
Music Director/Vocal Arranger-David B. Bishop
The Lion Theatre 410 West 42nd St.
Through March 30, 2014
Next: America’s Sweetheart by Rodgers & Hart April 1-13, 2014