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Open: 03/06/07- Close: 03/18/07 The Happy Time
Reviewed for By: Fred McKinnon

"Cabaret," "Chicago," "Kiss of the Spider Woman" – it's not. But "The Happy Time" certainly is a Kander and Ebb musical, one of those long misplaced jewels in which composer John and lyricist Fred display the craftsmanship which endearingly made them the longest music-lyric team in Broadway history. With a libretto by N. Richard Nash ("The Rainmaker" and "110 in the Shade") an entertaining, as well as engaging, staged-concert version is being offered as part of MUSICALS TONIGHT! at the intimate McGinn/Cazales Theatre on Broadway.

Being presented in what first appears to be a poor man's version of the ENCORES! format (script-in-hand, sparse sets, undemanding costumes, a single piano player), this 1968 Broadway pleasantry (by which Robert Goulet garnered a Tony) deceptively becomes more than what it might seem. The efforts of thirteen talented and enthusiastic cast members and the admirable direction of Thomas Mills, who also provides pleasing and sometimes-astonishing choreography, create a satisfying musical theater experience.

The story begins with arresting actor and singer Timothy Warmen, as itinerant photographer Jacques, subtly revealing some of the ambivalent qualities of our protagonist by recalling his family—which he has not seen for five years—in singing "The Happy Time." Upon Jacques' return home to the small 1920s French Canadian village of St. Pierre, we encounter an assortment of family members (written with varying character depth). Distinguished performances are presented by Larry Daggett as traditionally-minded older brother (Louis); George S. Irving—who played Louis on Broadway thirty-nine years ago—as an old, sometimes disagreeable, but always loveable singing and dancing Grandpere; David Geinosky as Bibi, a coming-of-age, conflicted teen who idolized his uncle Jacque and, much to his family's chagrin, wants to run off with him; and enchanting Sarah Solie as Jacques' love interest Laurie, who is forsaken in her desire for them to settle down. At times some of the play's goings-on seem a bit contrived and many of the "jokes" have not stood the test of time; but ultimately, the often catchy, lively, nostalgic and uplifting tunes will significantly diminish those theatrical missteps.

At the Friday matinee (not a bad idea) I attended, Mel Miller, the producer of MUSICALS TONIGHT!, addressed the audience and provided background information regarding the play, the theatrical happenings at the time of its original production and a few reminds of some of the significant events of 1968. Not only another "nice touch" of this unique theatrical endeavor,

it provided a window though which to observe "The Happy Times" being, as in Hamlet's words,

". . . the abstracts and brief chronicles of the time . . ."

McGinn Cazale Theatre : 2162 Broadway