At the Rindge Tech Auditorium, tonight at 8:30
In 1940 Lorenz Hart was at his pithy best, and Richard Rodgers had not yet flowered into his fluffy and roseate bloom. The final issue of their union was Pal Joey, the story of a down and out entertainer, based on some stories by John O'Hara. The show itself is positively charming--combining Hart's wistful but razor sharp wit, with a musical sophstication that Rodgers was never again to achieve. Drumbeats and Song's production last night took advantage of all of Joey's heady potential. It was slick, sexy, delightfully witty--all in all, great fun.
The excellence of last night's show depended primarily upon the skill of the principal characters. Actually, the show is Joey's, and the profiency of Richard France in that role was the most important element. His flawless stage presence and general savoir faire held the production together, and seemed to impart to the other players the confidence they so surely indicated. Mr. France played the part to at; his voice was serviceable and clear, his dancing dazzling.
One would even have gone so far as to say that Mr. France was the best thing in the show, had not Gretchen Cryer, as Vera, his high society mistress, rivalled him so closely. Her part was much different, requiring a sophisticated irony and a worldly resignation. Miss Cryer proved herself both singer and actress, entrancing the audience with the cool eroticism of Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, and handling Vera's jaded sarcasm with elegant ease. Her imitation of a Bronx gun moll in the first act was one of the most intelligent bits of broad humor seen around here in a long, long time.
The lesser principals were also consistently delightful. Charon Lee Cohen acted the part of Linda, Joey's girl, with pert assurance, and sang with engaging naivote. Laurie Could performed the role of Melba, the demon girl journalist, with the sort of fire and ice that has made her well-known to Harvard audiences. Andy Hiken, as the ncredible Ludlow Lowell, cavorted in the proper Runyonesque manner.
But the character who endeared herself most to the audience (at least to this particular segment of the audience) was Frances Blakeslee, who bumped magnificently through the part of Gladys--the big, red-haired bomb-shell. From her devastating rendition of I'm a Red Hot Mama to the hearty parody of Plant You Nog' Dig You Later, she showed herself a remarkably skilled comedienne. It was an increasing pleasure to see her bounce onto the stage, wiggle her nose, etc., and let go with that big voice.
The most traditional (and most delightfully Radcliffe) part of the show, the Radcliffe chorus line, made its annual appearance. These attractive young ladies did exactly what was expected of them with the coy naivete which distinguishes Radcliffe kicklines from other kicklines the world over. The graceful solo dancing of Mary Ellen Klee in the first act finale was a delight to behold, and made one wish for more of the same.
The sets were useful and decorative, the orchestra excellent, David Sloss' tempo fast and crisp. The direction was competent and the costumes were clever and colorful.
I did notice, however, some empty seats in the Rindge Tech auditorium (that great bin) which leads me to suspect that some few tickets will be left for tonight. I heartily recommend that you call up the Coop, or who-ever handles these things, and get hold of a ticket or two for this bubbly production. You certainly won't regret it.