*The Unsinkable Molly Brown,* 2/14/20
Richard and I saw *The Unsinksable Molly Brown* at the Abrons Arts Center on 2/14/20. It's a musical by Meredith Willson (of *The Music Man* fame) about the real-life Molly Brown, survivor of the Titanic sinking, played by Kathy Bates in the 1997 movie. The musical has a long history:
1960: the musical opened on Broadway and played for just over a year. It had music and lyrics by Willson, a book by Richard Morris, and starred Tammy Grimes as Molly and Harve Presnell as her husband.
1964: the musical was turned into a movie, starring Debbie Reynolds as Molly and Presnell as her husband.
1989: the two stars of the movie did a national tour.
2009 to 2011: various readings of a new version of the show, with a book by Dick Scanlan who also wrote new lyrics to other songs in the Willson catalog. One of those readings was with Sutton Foster as Molly.
2014: a fully staged production of the Scanlan version was done in Denver, with Beth Malone playing Molly.
All of the readings and productions since 2009 have been directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, who I know from the 2003 Broadway revival of *Wonderful Town.* She made the most of the teeny stage at the Henry Street Settlement House, it was impressive how well she masked the size of the stage.
I knew Malone from *Fun Home,* she played the most grown-up of the three versions of Alison. She was fantastic in that show and I was looking forward to seeing her in something else. She was very good, she had a strong presence had sang well. Her husband was played by David Aron Damane, who I had seen as Husky Miller (the Escamillo character) in *Carmen Jones* in 2018 - - he was good in both shows, he's an appealing actor with a nice voice.
Can you hear the faint praise? I was sitting there in the theater trying to figure out how I was going to describe the show in my review, and the word that came to mind was "shrill." It was relentless, and the high spirits were forced. That wears you out after a while. And the final, pro-immigrant, "don't let 'em get ya down" message pointed a little too precisely at a 2020 target.
Here's a show-stopping number from the movie. Gives you a sense of what you're in for.