By Myra Chanin . . .
Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway never disappoints. It’s an entertainment extravaganza devised by Ricky Ritzel, a one-man-band-with-a-brain who selects, interprets, relates and musically directs the magnificent More Than Ready for Prime-Time Players zesty samples of three Broadway Musicals on the final Friday night of the month ten times a year. Regardless of whether the musicals were (a) hits, (b) gave their investors fits, (c) and were rescued by Ricky from the pits, the only question that evening is whether music or comedy triumphs. This month’s comedy won.
Is there a Broadway impresario who can be compared to our off-off-off-Broadway Rickeleh? How about Scott Rudin? Following the formula created by Mel Brooks’ Franz Liebkind, the world’s second most famous Nazi, who compared Churchill and Hitler in categories that Adolph could win, Ritzel has more and better hair than Scott Rudin. Ritzel yells less and smiles more than Rudin, Ritzel spends less, his casts are as talented and require far fewer hours of rehearsal! Ricky also has taken home five consecutive MAC Recurring Show Awards, while Rudin has only won four Tony’s, at least according to my count, and he had lots of partners.
Ricky’s October spectacular began with The Appletree’s terrific tunes by Jerry Bock and wily rhymes by Sheldon Harnick. Mike Nichols directed the original cast which included Barbara Harris, Alan Alta, Robert Klein, with whom he’d worked at Second City. Nichols found Dustin Hoffman’s singing wasn’t up to the vocal requirement of this musical but Hoffman impressed Nichols enough for him to save the lead in The Graduate for Hoffman.
The Appletree’s three acts are each based on a different story — Mark Twain’s Diaries of Adam and Eve; Frank R. Stockton’s The Lady of the Tiger with Jules Feiffer’s Passionella as caboose. They shared a common theme. Someone wants something, gets it, only to realize that having it didn’t do what they thought it would.
Sidney Myer’s innocent Adam enjoys being the sole man in his diversified, curious, fascinating bountiful “Beautiful, Beautiful World” but is so simple that, given the task of naming the animals, divides them into flyers, swimmers and crawlers. Fortunately Deborah Stone’s series debut as an innocent but curious, questioning, long-haired Eve, sings.“Here in Eden,” and properly names them cows, ducks, horses, etc. She admits she finds apples particularly exciting, even before Aaron Morishita’s seductive moustached snake convinces her tasting “Forbidden Fruit” would speed her education, and let her share her knowledge of wood-craft, first-aid, home economy with Adam for whom she has feelings and vice versa. Deborah Stone’s ballet background is evident as the limber lady in red sequins, telling the guard “I’ve Got What You Want,” as she asks him to reveal which door conceals the lady and which conceals the tiger, only to realize that the man she wants will either be a tiger’s lunch or the lady’s mate, which equals zilch for her.
Finally, Tanya Moberly’s plaintive Passionella, smudged with ashes, seriously announces chimney sweeping is OK but she wants to be a rich, glamorous, beautiful movie star as the audience totally cracks up. Does she get her wish? Sort of. She becomes the talented, “Gorgeous” Tara Martinez, so ultra-bosomed that I asked my companion if he thought they were real or rubber. Since he’d examined Tara’s chest closely when he passed Tara in the bar, he assured me that they were very real indeed.
Bajour, Ricky’s second offering, is the Romini word for a con game in which lonely women are swindled out of their savings. It’s based on two Joseph Mitchell stories, The Gypsy Woman and The King of the Gypsies, published in The New Yorker. If anyone wonders how Hershel Bernardi wiled away his pre-Tevya Shabbats, he was playing Cockeye Johnny Dembo, the Gypsy king. Re the book? It’s a mishmash about the less said the better, which leaves us more room to sing praises to Goldie Dver, the other comic sensation, making her debut in this series in this show.
Everything about Goldie, her outfit, her movements, her delivery, her demeaner brought down the house with laughter. You may remember Goldie as the most beloved and only sane member of Joey Reynolds dysfunctional Jewish family heard every Friday night at midnight on WOR. Goldie Dver appeared, her face hidden behind a biography of Albert Schweitzer. She plays an anthropologist seeking her tribe and milking every laugh out of her lyrics:
Where are those savage Pre-Adamites who live unseen, unknown
Waiting to show me puberty rites that I can call my own?
You’re not an etymologist Until you get the word
You’re not an ornithologist Until you get the bird
Eve Eaton, one of Those Girls, becomes the Gypsy Woman reading the palm of she who does not know she is about to be bilked singing “Love-Line,” a gorgeous song I’d never heard. Goldie once again has the audience eating out of her hand as she questions “Must It Be Love?”
The story of South Pacific needs no retelling. If you don’t know what it’s about, you don’t belong in New York. The heroine, Nellie Forbush, is a navy nurse from Little Rock stationed in the South Pacific during WWII. Portrayed by Meg Father, Nellie is uplifting and touching singing “Cockeyed Optimist” and as the sailor lover of “Honeybun” — Warren Schein in a grass skirt, a blond wig and an irresistible coconut shell brassiere. Those Girls in sailor suits accompanied by Steven Ray Watkins wowed with “There’s Nothing like a Dame,” a nostalgic notion today when one can choose between over 60 gender classifications. And then romance floods the room as the golden-voiced Tommy J. Dose’s Emile de Becque, who adores Nurse Nellie, floods the showroom with love and turns the entire audience to mush.
Don’t forget, on November 26th digest your turkey the evening after Thanksgiving at Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway’s final show of the year featuring Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, On Your Toes and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
As always at 7 pm. at Don’t Tell Mama 343 W. 46th St.
Photos: Maryann Lopinto