BWW Review: MTG Provides a Lilting Rendition of PROMISES PROMISES

Promises, Promises

BWW Review: MTG Provides a Lilting Rendition of PROMISES PROMISES

book by Neil Simon/music by Burt Bacharach/lyrics by Hal David/directed by Richard Israel/MTG (Music Theatre Guild), Alex Theatre, Glendale/one night only; CLOSED

In 1968 Promises, Promises, based on 1960's hit film The Apartment, opened on Broadway to great critical and popular acclaim. It was the first collaboration between Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and the resultant score was - and still is - regarded as one of the most gloriously upbeat musicals to grace a stage. Throw in Neil Simon, who wrote the book, and how can you miss having a hit? Promises2 was nominated for 8 Tony Awards and won 2 for Jerry Orbach and Marion Mercer. The show was successfully revived in 2010 in New York starring Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth, but did not receive nearly the same praise from audience or critics.

I am thrilled to say I saw Jerry Orbach and Jill O'Hara do the show in 1968 and it blew my socks off. Orbach was sensational, O'Hara gave one of the most poignant renditions of "Whoever You Are" I have ever heard. In short, the show was a delicious rendering of The Apartment.

BWW Review: MTG Provides a Lilting Rendition of PROMISES PROMISES

All right, enough about the past!

MTG presented Promises2 in a fully staged reading with orchestra on Sunday September 25. Despite some bad sound and equally bad lighting cues, it was pretty damn good. Will Collyer, so sweet and gentle, was born to play CC Baxter. And Shannon Warne is always right on the money with any character she plays. She made Fran Kubelik memorable with her beautiful singing voice and equally fine reactions. Life's a mess and both Collyer and Warne made us laugh at it all.

The supporting cast were wonderful as well. Kevin Symons made an appropriate no-nonsense, poker-faced Sheldrake, all business, inhuman schmuck. Leslie Stevens was delightful as Marge, the pickup, which twice was a Tony winning role. Although a bit over the top, she was terribly funny. Scott Harlan made a terrific Dr. Dreyfuss with his sardonic New York Jewish sense of humor. Kim Huber did with a small role what most actresses dream of - getting applause twice as she left the stage. Strong, direct and fearless, she was simply great. The executives Glenn Rosenblum, David Holmes, Scott Strauss, and Tom G. McMahon made the most of their numbers, especially "Where Can You Take a Girl?" They danced, sang, cavorted and had fun. Equally fun were the gals Dana Meller, Katie DeShan, Wendy Rosoff, and Kelley Dorney who really got into "Turkey Lurkey Time" and passed that happy feeling on to us.

BWW Review: MTG Provides a Lilting Rendition of PROMISES PROMISES

Kudos to Richard Israel for his fine staging, to John Todd for his nifty choreography and to Jennifer Lin and her orchestra who made all the music sound great.

Promises, Promises has a complicated, sad storyline, but Neil Simon kept it as bright as possible. As in life, you have to smile - no more than that, laugh - at misfortune, and move on. For me, the score is the show. MTG did Burt Bacharach and Hal David proud. It would be nice to see a full production of this show in LA, as the 2010 revival never made it here.

Next up for MTG: another rarely seen musical, The Spitfire Grill on November 13!

BWW Review: MTG Provides a Lilting Rendition of PROMISES PROMISES

(photo credit: Alan Weston)

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From This Author Don Grigware

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