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Guy and Doll: Can Do

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Brian Tom O'Connor and Debra Vogel are probably not the type of performers you have in mind when you first think of the New York cabaret scene, but their show Guy and Doll, making a return engagement to Don't Tell Mama, is not your typical cabaret evening.

In reviewing their last New York outing, How to Be Perfect, I described their chemistry as reminiscent of what you might have found in a 1960's television special starring Jackie Gleason and Nancy Walker, but this time their work, though still raucously funny, is tinged with a few subtler shades. Director Elfin Frederick's has truly helped shape them into a musical comedy version of Mike Nichols and Elaine May. They are sketch comics who use showtunes for punch lines in playing out charming and funny vignettes of male/female romantic relationships. Working without amplification, the two of them have solid musical comedy character actor voices -- his a light baritone and hers a sassy belt -- and are staged as though we're watching scenes from a book musical. (Musical staging is by Nora Brown.)

"It all starts with seduction", the pair reminds us as they begin with "Seduction in three cities: London, Venice and (Irving) Berlin." The trio begins with Michael Flanders and Donald Swann's "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear", a rarely heard gem from their revue At The Drop Of A Hat. "Thinking", by Rodgers and Sondheim, is used to demonstrate the awkwardness of asking for that first date and, in an inspired set-up, Irving Berlin's "You're Just In Love" is played out in the office of a lecherous psychiatrist.

In another fun combination, a dinner date is set to the tunes of "Frim Fram Sauce" (Redd Evans and Joe Ricardel), "Honeysuckle Rose" (Fats Waller and Andy Razaf) and "Squeeze Me" (Waller and Spencer Williams).

More poignant moments are done effectively with "Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week" (Styne and Cahn), "I Wanted to Change Him" (Styne, Comden and Green) and "And What If We Had Loved Like That" (Maltby and Shire), but there's always a funny duet on the horizon like "Cherry Pies Ought to Be You" (Porter) or "Take a Job" (Styne, Comden and Green). And especially clever bit involves Adler and Ross' "I'll Never Be Jealous Again" performed as part of a medical study on human behavior involving Barbie and Ken Dolls.

Darryl Curry is not only the music director and accompanist, but he's also a welcome participant in both vocals and hi-jinks.

One of the things that makes O'Connor and Vogel so enjoyable is that their shows are completely family friendly, without any overtly sexual or controversial material, and yet there is no lack of adult sophistication. Guy and Doll is the kind of show you can take you conservative out-of-town relatives to, but it's also a terrific pick for date night.

Photos by Josh Yu

 


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