By Marilyn Lester
What fun! And for a worthy cause too— The International Rescue Committee (see more, below). Slay It With Music, book and lyrics by Michael Colby, music by Paul Katz, is a madcap musical first produced Off Broadway in 1989. This abridged version at The Green Room 42 was no less spectacular than the acclaimed original run, living up to critic Rex Reed’s observation that it “will kill you with laughs!” The New York Times’ august reviewer, Stephen Holden, called it “lighthearted, amusing and charming.” To these well-deserved accolades add sly, witty and one hundred percent entertaining.
Slay It With Music is an ode to Grande Dame Guignol, the genre of 1960s movies in which 1940s movie stars like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford made screen comebacks in horror tales, most notably in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? As inspiration for Slay It With Music, Colby threw a few more classics into the mashup, with the book also drawing elements from Sunset Boulevard, The Bad Seed and Psycho.
This concert version of the piece was directed by Charles Repole. He not only did a fine job of pacing and placing, but the fact that the cast was having such a good time is a testament to both the inherent wackiness of the work and to his guiding hand. Katz’s tuneful compositions were played with enthusiasm and orchestral fullness by music director/pianist Phil Reno. Musical numbers such as “Whatever Happened to…?,” “Sisters,” “I Know a Secret” and the title song kept the plot swiftly moving along. Narration for this abridged version was delivered by Eric Michael Gillett, whose Boris Karloff-inflected accent was delightfully beyond perfect for the task.
Slay It With Music tells the story of forgotten 1940s movie star Enid Beaucoup, who is trying to make a comeback in a slasher movie entitled Chop Chop. Edna’s sister Marcy Beaumont, a TV star, arrives, informing Edna that “Poughkeepsie,” her soap opera, has been cancelled. Now Marcy can no longer help maintain Edna’s home. Marcy also demands that Edna not make the movie because it could remind the public of a past scandal. Thereupon, Edna “accidentally” breaks Marcy’s leg, forcing her to stay wheelchair-bound in the house. Sharon McNight as Edna and Marianne Tatum as Marcy were pricelessly camp as the two sisters, diving into their roles with a delectable chemistry.
As Zachary Von Zell, Edna’s compulsive retainer, Eddie Korbich, lurked around every corner with a restrained yet zealous mania that would have no doubt delighted Sunset Boulevard’s Erich von Stroheim. Tom Wopat mastered several roles with dedicated delight, including the sisters’ kindly father Marcel Beaumont (in flashback), Grant Foster, whose mysterious murder was never solved (but Edna was implicated) and Chad Walker, Marcy’s scoundrel ex-husband who barges into the house looking for money and whom Edna accidentally kills.
Alex Getlln, complete with delicious Brooklyn accent, hilariously played Rosemarie Clinger, a star-struck tour guide who finds herself at the Beaucoup home, only to be murdered. In a lesser, but pivotal part, Caroline Conceison was superbly smug as the unpleasant, self-satisfied child next door who holds the key to solving all the mayhem descending upon the Beaucoups. At the musical’s finish, with all mysteries resolved, it was no secret that Slay It With Music In Concert was a rip-roaring success and heck of a good time.
Photos: JK Clarke
The International Rescue Committee (www.rescue.org) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities.