Susan and I saw *Hey, Look Me Over!* at City Center Encores! on 2/10/18. They're a group that does forgotten and/or not-frequently-revived Broadway musicals. This was the start of their 25th anniversary season, and they decided to open the season with a revue of numbers from shows they had NOT done. Interesting idea, yes?
They chose seven shows (eight, sort of) but thought they needed something to pull the evening together. Someone on their staff said, "We need The Man in Chair!" and they all agreed this was the perfect solution. The Man in Chair is a character written by and performed by Bob Martin in *The Drowsy Chaperone,* a darling Broadway musical from 2006 about a fictional Broadway musical from 1928. The Man in Chair tells the audience about the show and talks them through each number. Here's Bob Martin at the Tony Awards, introducing the best number in the show, "Show Off." Sutton Foster was the star, and keep your eye out for Georgia Engel as Mrs. Tottendale:
Martin did a great job creating continuity for *Hey, Look Me Over!* Not every joke really landed in the way he might have wished, but the show was definitely improved by his presence.
The show, of course, opened with an overture, the overture to *Wildcat.* It was a stunner. Susan and I stuck around for a post-show discussion, and Artistic Director Jack Viertel told a cute story about someone saying that the overture to *Wildcat* reminded him of the greatest overture to any Broadway musical ever, *Gypsy.* And Music Director Rob Berman happened to be there to say that that's no mistake, because they're both by the same orchestrator, Rob Ginzler. Don't you love this kind of trivia? I know I do.
Carolee Carmello sang "Hey, Look Me Over!" and she killed it.
*All American* is the one show I had never heard of. It's about a Hungarian immigrant who comes to the US to teach at a small college. He's surprised to learn that the dean is a woman, and even more surprised that he'll be living with her. You can see where that's headed, right?
Reed Birney played the professor, and said at the post-show discussion that this was his first performance in a musical since playing Cornelius in his high school production of *Hello, Dolly!* How cute is that. His singing had a charming, unschooled quality, he was one of my favorite performers in the show. He was greatly helped by his scene partner, the amazing Judy Kuhn, who has such a lovely voice. The show produced one fairly well known song, "Once Upon a Time." Here's Tony Bennett doing the song:
Vanessa Williams did "Ain't It the Truth" and "Push De Button" from this show, which was written for Lena Horne. Maybe she's a little fossilized in her comportment. She's a star, she's got a dazzling personality, but is she an actor?
MILK AND HONEY
This felt like one of those shows where you can understand why it had a short run and hasn't been revived since 1963.
MACK AND MABEL
Like *Milk and Honey,* another Jerry Herman show. It's about silent movie director Mack Sennett and his leading lady, Mabel Normand. I've been saying for years that Encores! should do a production for Hugh Jackman, this would be a great role for him. Instead they got Douglas Sills, who was JUST FINE.
Remember I said *Hey, Look Me Over!* consisted of numbers from seven shows, eight sort of? The "sort of" was the overture to the second half, the overture to *Subways Are For Sleeping.*
This show has a cult following. I thought it was rather stupid. Clinton Duncan sang the show-stopping song "Never Will I Marry," and the crowd went wild, but I wasn't wild for the song or his performance.
Bebe Neuwirth sang the 11:00 number from this Nöel Coward show, "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" Her vibrato has gone from wobble to tremolo to sirocco, but can she deliver a song! Here's Mr. Coward himself doing the song:
The show closed with "Give My Regards To Broadway.* I feel that a tap number is patriotic enough, does it really have to be done to a George M. Cohan song, in red, white, and blue costumes? Please, enough already.