Thursday, February 5, 2009

review - Minsky's @ The Ahmanson

The New Musical Comedy
book by Bob Martin
music by Charles Strouse; lyrics by Susan Birkenhead
directed & choreographed by Casey Nicholaw
Ahmanson Theatre
through March 1

Entertainment will always offer the common man a chance to unravel: it did circa 1930 during the depression and is currently doing so, once again in hard economic times. Although a period piece, Minsky's is hardly dated. True, we no longer attend burlesque, but its emphasis on beautiful women, mounds of flesh, and hysterical blackout sketches that are fast-paced and off-the-wall is still a part of contemporary theatre. It is little wonder that audiences are thoroughly enjoying Minsky's at the Ahmanson, produced by MGM On Stage (they gave us the film The Night They Raided Minsky's, the basis for this show) and ingeniously directed by Casey Nicholaw, who so brilliantly helmed The Drowsy Chaperone a mere 3 years ago. Minsky's pluses do not stop with Nicholaw; also featured is the ultra-spirited music of Charles Strouse (Bye, Bye Birdie and Annie), and an upbeat book by Bob Martin, who also wrote and starred in Chaperone, etc, etc, etc. This team is amongst la creme de la creme of American musical theatre.
The cast is uniformly outstanding, headed by another Chaperone veteran, Beth Leavel (Maisie). Leavel garnered a Tony Award for her unforgettable portrayal of the drowsy chaperone. The role of dance captain Maisie is much bigger in size, so much the better for us, as Leavel is bold, brassy and a complete joy, singing, dancing and acting her heart out. Tony nominee (for Young Frankenstein) Christopher Fitzgerald essays the miniature giant Billy Minsky with guts and ever-present charisma. Katharine Leonard is pretty and lively as Mary Sumner; Paul Vogt, delightfully deadpan as stage assistant Boris, and George Wendt despiccably appealing (especially in drag) as Councilman Randolph Sumner, bent on closing Minsky's down. Rachel Dratch is the scene stealer as Beula - the petite and frumpy girl who looks like a guy and just does not fit in. Her duet "I Want a Life" with John Cariani as Jason Shimpkin, another quiet, out-of-place creature in a boisterous theatrical world, is the evening's show stopper. Gerry Vichi rounds out the excellent character ensemble as the older and wise clown Scratch.
Strouse's music includes a variety of big, flashy chorus numbers like the fast and furious first act opener "Workin' Hot", "Bananas", the quitessential burlesque song "Every Number Needs a Button", the deliriously sizzling tap number at the top of Act II "Tap Happy" as well as a quite touching ballad "Home", which gives Minsky's and all show biz establishments a loving priority in an otherwise dismal world.
5 out of 5 stars


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home