In many ways "Viva O'Brien" is the biggest, bestest, most extravagant and ambitious musical show ever to be piled up on the boards and shoveled across the footlights of Boston's peaceful old Shubert Theatre. Producers Tickey, Hale and Robinson have reached into the pantry of theatrical food and loaded a groaning table with every edible known to the theatroniverous world. Net result: the most appetetive play-going gourmand alive could hardly leave without a satieted groan and a distinct craving for Alka-Seltzer. Reason: the recipe used was an inexcusably hacked script.
There's no use beating the dead; it's best just to let "Viva O'Brien's" book lie anonymous with all of its abortive attempts at humor and hope someone will mercifully bury it. A much cheerier subject is the technical genius which has been employed in the production. Topped by the novel triumph of a swimming pool built into the stage, a colorful and impressive array of no less than a dozen distinct scenes is presented--effective enough in themselves to keep a normal audience awake. The presence of the afore-mentioned body of water is thoroughly exploited and the show ends up as a fancy and comic diving exhibition midst colored lights, soft music and beautiful girls, all of which brings back memories of a guy named Billy Rose.
But it's a long road that leads to this Aquacadish finale. You last it out only because the weary stretches of attempted comedy are broken frequently by the antics of one funny trio who must have written their own routine, the pleasing calisthenics of a large chorus of girls whose beauty was given by God and not Helena Rubenstein, expensive costumes and lighting, and a good measure of sweet notes from the orchestra pit. It's all there but the script; one-quarter of it plus a good script would have made a better product. But, though O'Brien dies a thousand deaths, the show will probably live on, sustained by sheer scope and variety.