Moon’s Carnival: midway between comedy, drama

Apr 06

Moon’s <i>Carnival</i>: midway between comedy, drama

Watching the 1961 musical Carnival!, a hit on Broadway, it's fairly easy to see why the show was never a candidate for major Broadway revival or a staple of community theaters. The score, by Bob Merrill, has real charm and beauty mixed with pleasant mediocrity. The standout song, "Love Makes the World Go Round," is used to great effect, although the most poignant song in the score is a longing-for-home number called "Mira" that perfectly captures what the show wants to be: a sweet, melodic story with melancholy and pain running not too far under the surface. And therein lies the tricky part. This musical, with a book by Michael Stewart, looks like a happy mainstream musical, but it's much more complex than that. In many ways, it succeeds in being musical comedy and drama, but the creators didn't have quite the sophistication to pull it off – or maybe they felt they were offering as much sophistication or complexity as an early '60s Broadway audience could handle.

Whatever the reason, Carnival! Remains a curiosity, and thanks to 42nd Street Moon, the great reviver of Broadway curiosities, treasures and castoffs, we get to explore Carnival! games in a production that lets us experience what the show does best.

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Xanadu the right thing

May 23

<i>Xanadu</i> the right thing

Summer camp has started early this year, but not to worry. This is some high quality high camp.

We've had a few Bay Area productions of Xanadu, the Broadway musical version of the notorious 1980 movie starring Olivia Newton-John as a roller-skating light bulb, er, sorry, roller-skating Muse (you know, from Mt. Olympus kind of muse). The Retro Dome in San Jose and New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco both did the show last year, but having missed the show during its 2007/08, I was waiting for the Center Repertory Company production that just opened.

I'm so glad I waited.

Before I tell you how fabulous this production is – and fabulous really is the operative word on so many levels – I have to confess to being a Xanadu fan.

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Russian dressing: The vintage charms of Silk Stockings

May 09

Russian dressing: The vintage charms of <i>Silk Stockings</i>

How in the world do you follow Strike Up the Band? 42nd Street Moon’s last outing was a spectacularly charming and tuneful production of a Gershwin show that has been unjustly sidelined by musical theater history.

The problem with doing such a bang-up job with Band is that there’s still a final show in the season with which to contend.

And may I say, the finale is no Strike Up the Band. But it’s Cole Porter, so all is not lost.

Silk Stockings, a 1955 musical adaptation of the Greta Garbo film Ninotchka, is a minor work with a wildly unfocused book and a hit-and-miss Porter score.

You don’t see a lot of Silk Stockings revivals, so we have yet another reason to celebrate 42nd Street Moon’s dedication to dusting off shows that we’d never otherwise get to experience.

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Hot Babes! Even hotter tunes!

Dec 06

Hot <i>Babes!</i> Even hotter tunes!

Let it be said that Babes in Arms is one of the weirdest musicals with the greatest scores ever written. There have been weirder musicals and greater scores, but never in such striking combination.

You can see for yourself as 42nd Street Moon unfurls all the daffy delirium that is Babes in Arms on stage at the Eureka Theatre. Go for the weirdness but stay for the sheer pleasure of hearing “Where or When,” “My Funny Valentine,” “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” “Way Out West,” “Johnny One-Note” and “The Lady Is a Tramp” in their original context.

This is the second time that 42nd Street Moon has resurrected Rodgers and Hart’s 1937 show. The first time was in November of 1999, when the cast included Darren Criss, the newest cast member on the phenomenon known as Glee.

In fact, Glee and Babes in Arms have several things in common. For one, they’re both full of talented kids crazy about putting shows. For another, they both traffic in some terrific songs. And finally, they’re both about as reality-based as Santa Claus.

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Theater review: `High Spirits’

Apr 11

Spirits are blithe in Moon’s `High Spirits’««« ½ What’s the point of reviewing a show just a few days before it closes? Not much from a commercial point of view. But given the sudden interest in all things Noel Coward, I had to check out 42nd Street Moon’s production of High Spirits, a 1964 musical based on Coward’s play Blithe...

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Review: `Girl Crazy’

Nov 03

Meghann Reynolds and Jeff Horst croon “Embraceable You” in 42nd Street Moon’s revival of the George and Ira Gershwin musical Girl Crazy at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco. Photos by David Allen 42nd Street Moon revives loveable, embraceable `Girl’««« ½ There’s nothing quite like a Gershwin revival to brighten the musical...

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