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Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of Encores! I MARRIED AN ANGEL?

Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of Encores! I MARRIED AN ANGEL?

New York City Center's I Married an Angel officially opened last night, March 21. The show is the second Encores! production of the City Center 75th Anniversary Season.

In addition to Sara Mearns as the Angel of the title, the production features Phillip Attmore(Peter Mueller), Max Baker (General Lucash), Mark Evans (Count Willy Palaffi), Ann Harada (Duchess of Holstein-Kuloff), Nikki M. James (Countess Peggy Palaffi), Hayley Podschun (Anna Murphy), and Tom Robbins (Harry Mischka Szigetti).

Rodgers and Hart's third major collaboration with choreographer George Balanchine, I Married an Angel is one of a handful of shows from the 1930s that was yearning to find the key to a new kind of musical. More sophisticated and innately theatrical than the average vaudeville-inspired productions of the Jazz Age, the originality of this show comes from the blending of a drawing room comedy with serious and extended dance sequences. The angel (Sara Mearns) of the title is just that, an emissary from heaven who descends to earth to melt the dyspeptic heart of an unscrupulous banker, Count Willy Palaffi (Mark Evans).

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Jesse Green, The New York Times: If the problem were just a few lines, it might be swept away or ignored. But even after a thorough feminist scouring by the playwrights Sarah Saltzberg and Sandy Rustin, "I Married an Angel" is solid-state groan-worthy. You can't scour away Lorenz Hart's lyrics.

Matt Windman, amNY: Nevertheless, the production (directed and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse, who is married to Mearns) is an elegant affair, with extensive balletic and jazzy dance choreography and conducting by Rob Fisher (the founding music director of Encores!).

Sarah Downs, New York Theatre Guide: The performances vary. Mark Evans is disappointing as the male romantic lead. His voice is pleasant, but he needs more nuance. Nikki M. James as Countess Peggy is, unfortunately, very miscast. She lacks the sophistication to play the over-the-top, sardonic Countess and fell afoul of the music when it required moving between her vocal registers. By contrast, when Hayley Podschun appears, everyone else fades from view. She really livens up the joint. She's a fabulous singer; she's funny; she dances; she gives as good as she gets. Tom Robbins as the banker Harry Mischka Szigetti operates at the same level. He knows his way around a stage. Some of the smaller roles are quite funny, including befuddled General Lukash (Max Baker). However, it is Sara Mearns, as the show's angelic star, who has to carry the show, which she does admirably. Some line readings drop, but she lands most of her jokes.

Michael Sommers, New York Stage Review: As directed and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse, the performances tend to be spotty. That particular 1930s comedy style of snappy chitchat evidently does not come easily for some performers. Looking chic and singing agreeably Nikki M. James cannot achieve Countess Peggy's urbane ease of manner. As Willy, Mark Evans certainly pleases as a well-tailored leading man of the era, and he boasts a clear, resilient voice. Yet often Evans seems merely flustered as Willy rather than showing anxiety over his bride's beatific ways. Ever a supple and lissome dancer, Sara Mearns sweetly and steadily portrays Angel with a wide-eyed naivety that mostly compensates for being not much of an actor.

Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: Mearns does quite well, for her part, but at this point is not nearly so angelic as Zorina must have been. The other principals do well enough, under the circumstances. Nikki M. James and Tom Robbins provide sly charm and wide guffaws as the comedy couple, Phillip Attmore dances up a storm as the juvenile, and Hayley Podshun is a total knockout as the out-of-place American who sings the two big songs. The actual song hit of the show, "Spring Is Here," has little impact.

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