BWW Review: The York Reconstructs and Revives Lerner and Loewe Obscurity THE DAY BEFORE SPRING
Opening in November of 1945 and closing up shop less than four months later, the sophomore Broadway effort of the team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, The Day Before Spring, would be the last musical by the composer of sumptuous melodies and the scribe of urbane wit that would lapse into obscurity.
They would follow up with BRIGADOON, PAINT YOUR WAGON, MY FAIR LADY and CAMELOT, taking a respite to write "Gigi" for the screen.
The immediately recognizable difference between this domestic romantic comedy and the pair's latter successes is its contemporary American setting, with Loewe employing mostly the popular music styles of its time, including some heavy boogie-woogie.
The title refers to a popular romance novel written by bon vivant Alex, who nearly eloped with his Harvardale University sweetheart Katherine, except that his car broke down not very far from campus. They were rescued by Peter, who just happened to be driving by.
Now, ten years later, Katherine is married to Peter, whose job as a chemical engineer allows them a comfortable Upper East Side life. Alex has taken off as a best-selling author and world traveler, and since the hero's wife in his newest book is a thinly-veiled version of her, the bored housewife wonders what her life would have been like if they had a more dependable auto, seeing the upcoming reunion as an opportunity to find out.
The York Theatre Company previously presented a concert version of The Day Before Spring as part of their Musicals in Mufti series back in 2007, extensively researching material from various sources to piece together as close a representation of the original as possible. But since then, the discovery of the show's full score has prompted a more accurate adaptation by Marc Acito, who directs the buoyant new mounting, a 90-minute one-act for eleven actors. Music director David Hancock Turner leads the on-stage 3-piece combo.
Giving the central role of Katherine a chic uptown verve is Madison Claire Parks, who sings with a fluttery operetta-like soprano that beautifully embraces the old-European charm of Loewe's ballads. Will Reynolds is appealingly dorky as the blandly sturdy Peter, and Jesse Manocherian portrays Alex with a fine, adventurous swagger.
Comic dynamo Alyse Alan Louis belts out 1940s jive with her two solo turns, playing a lovelorn young woman named Christopher who's the kid sister of one of Peter's old flames.
Since Acito found it odd that Lerner's text, set in 1945, made no mention of World War II, which ended less than three months before the musical's opening, he reset the action to 1958. But Christopher, who is mentioned to be much younger than the (presumedly) 32-year-old Peter, sings in a musical language anchored to 1940s youth. If it really was set in 1958, it's likely the character would be singing rock and roll.
Rock and roll composed by Frederick Loewe? Now wouldn't that be loverly.