BWW Reviews: 42nd Street Moon Brings Lost Kern and Hammerstein Musical THREE SISTERS to America
Seventy-seven years after its London premiere, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's "Three Sisters" has come out of the dark for a full production with San Francisco's 42nd Street Moon. The musical only played for two months before closing in London and never made it to America aside from a staged concert of select songs. The restoration, which has been in the works for more than a year and received a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts, finally made its American debut Saturday night.
Composer Kern has contributed to the musical world with tunes for classics such as "Show Boat," while Hammerstein is best known for his partnership with Richard Rogers in creating several musicals that made their way to film, including "The Sound of Music" and "Carousel." "Three Sisters" has much in common with "Carousel," and according to Artistic Director Greg MacKellan, "Three Sisters" and another Broadway show called "Lilliom" greatly influenced the creation of "Carousel."
But "Three Sisters" is a show that can stand on its own. Although two of its main characters, Mary and Gypsy, strongly resemble Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow, "Three Sisters" has a charming, unique story that follows the romances of all three sisters: Mary, Dorrie and Tiny. Having been brought up by their father, a traveling photographer, the girls aren't part of high society, but they love each other and their family. Mary meets and falls in love with a barker, Gypsy Hood, at the Derby, but he has a free spirit and disappears after they get married. Engaged to the local constable, Eustace, Tiny, the oldest of the sisters, deals with her feelings for another barker named George, a fun guy to spend time with, but not the type to settle down with and marry. Lastly, Dorrie meets the rich Sir John Marsden who sees her for her personality and not her class.
The stories progress slowly and end quickly, and the majority of the music is not memorable on its own. Two songs from the musical have made it to Hollywood, though, including the only real catchy song from the show, "I Won't Dance." The music does not hold much compared to some of Kern's more well-known music, but it serves the show well and is a special piece of history in its own way. There are plenty of fun tunes combined with pleasant staging that could become more memorable if only they were a bit longer.
Any holes in the music and story are filled by an energetic and talented cast. Danny Cozart has a pleasant-enough voice, and while his acting does not seduce with the bad-boy charm and energy his character ought to have and he speaks with an inconsistent accent, Cozart succeeds in charming during his character's softer moments.
Brittany Danielle (Dorrie), Kate Paul (Tiny) and Riley Krull (Mary) each have their chance to shine with solo moments, the audience's chance to relax and enjoy three gorgeous voices. With energy and slapstick humor, Bill Fahrner and Christopher Reber give the musical much of its life as George the barker and Eustace the constable. The two characters bat heads a few times and act as the comic relief of the show. Eustace's character is particularly lovable and adorable, much like the bumbling, but heart-felt cops of silent films.
The actors are complemented by colorful, simple sets and beautiful costumes. Tiny's costumes sometimes seem a bit short on her tall figure, and she needs to wear flats rather than heels. Her awkward height does add to the humor of her relationship with the short Eustace, but it also acts as a visual annoyance at times for those picky enough to notice. Overall, however, each girl has several beautiful dresses, and the chorus and supporting characters, who also deliver solid singing voices, wear fitting costumes that work for the most part.
The costumes, sets and actors work together to create a charming, although not altogether consistently entertaining, production of a lost work of art. Fans of old-time musicals should hurry down to see this lovely production before it ends. It may well be the last chance America has to see the musical for a long while.
(Photo by DavidAllenStudio.com)