AISLE SAY Philadelphia


Book by Moss Hart
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Music by Kurt Weill
Directed by Ted Sperling
Starring Andrea Marcovicci
Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
through October 21, 2001
Box Office: (215)569-9700

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

I could hardly contain myself, a lady in the dark, sitting and listening to the glorious score by Kurt Weill, the enchanting lyrics of Ira Gershwin and the knock-you-out-funny book by Moss Hart. I'm talking, of course, about the smart, sophisticated, zany musical, "Lady in the Dark", which wowed audiences when it opened on Broadway in 1941. Sixty years later it can still "wow." The reason we never see this gem very often is precisely why this most recent revival is playing to half empty houses -- star power. Unfortunately, this revival hasn't got it. However, Director Ted Sperling has amassed a brilliant setting in which to display the "star" it has. The sets by James Schuette are startlingly witty, the costumes by David Belugou are delicious, the orchestra under the musical direction of Rob Berman is large and luscious, the supporting cast is very strong and the chorus sings their hearts out. Ah, the only thing that is missing is the fiery diamond at its center -- the leading lady. Though at times Andrea Marcovicci is a very sensitive and affecting actress, she lacks the charisma, chutzpah and vocal prowess necessary to drive this extravagant musical train.

Liza Elliott, editor of New York's top fashion magazine, "Allure" is having a nervous breakdown. Despite being a steely career woman on the outside, Liza's secret desires are revealed to us as she undergoes psychoanalysis. Through a series of dream sequences: Glamour Dream, Wedding Dream, and Circus Dream, consisting of four to five songs apiece, Liza comes to know who she really is. In the Glamour Dream, the sensible and tailored Liza discovers that she, who disdains frivolous dress and adornment, really wants to be adored as a glamour queen herself. And that's why she's surrounded herself with designers, photographers and models in the fashion world. In the Wedding Dream, Liza realizes that she does not love the man she is currently engaged to -- the older Kendall Nesbitt, the man who founded the magazine for her. And that she is much more of a sexual creature than she allows herself to be. In her dreams she has a fling with movie matinee idol, Randy Curtis, where she sings the haunting "This is New". In real life she keeps turning poor Randy down. Just as in the real world, the anger and frustration she exhibits with the handsome, macho Charley Johnson, who is one of her staff, is in essence unreleased sexual desire. For in her dreams Charley is a painter and Liza his subject. He tenderly touches parts of her body as he poses her for his masterpiece. In the Circus Dream, Liza is put on trial because she cannot make up her mind whether to marry Kendall or accept Randy's advances. Charley is the prosecuting attorney while Randy is her defense lawyer. This is where she sings (what should be the show stopping number of the evening) "The Saga of Jenny" -- probably the second best-known song from this score. The last and most telling segment is called The Childhood Sequence, where we find out that Liza has never considered herself pretty because she was always in direct competition with her very beautiful mother. Here Liza sings one of Weill's most famous songs, "My Ship".

In this day and age, these Freudian postulations may seem pretty tame. But it was all very cutting-edge back in the forties when psychoanalysis was essentially coming out of the closet. And much to my delight, the ending is neither a cop-out nor sappily sentimental -- it is levelheaded and fully satisfying.

Ms. Marcovicci's quiet and low key style work to her advantage on "This is New" and especially on "My Ship", where her voice sounds particularly pretty. Her most successful scenes are during the Childhood Sequence where she relives her bruised adolescence.

Mark Vietor as Russell Paxton/ Beekman stops the show with his rendition of "Tschaikowsky" and his exuberant personality. Beau Gravitte as Charley Johnson, the smart-alecky, Mr. Right, well, you could just eat him up with a spoon. Brian O'Brien as Randy Curtis has a thrilling voice and in a dance sequence throws Ms. Marcovicci around with impressive ability. Nina Hennessey sparkles vocally as Sutton the maid, and Alison Fraser as Alison DuBois in her outlandish getups is decidedly fun.

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