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THE PLAYGOER

At the Shubert

By George A. Leiper

Theatergoing in Boston is unlike theatergoing in other cities, excepting perhaps that in Philadelphia and New Haven. It can be very advantageous. Last March, or instance, any Bostonian with a couple of bucks and a good car to the ground could have done what many New Yorkers still can not do: get a ticket for "South Pacific." But if he had been a diligent theatergoer, chances are that he would have already paid out a small fortune for a whole string of duds last season before being rewarded with "South Pacific."

Relying on the local critics isn't always practical either, because the show you see on opening night may be quite different from the one you see during the second week of the run. (A flagrant case of this is Garson Kanin's play, "The Rat Race," of which only 35 percent of the original 'Boston' script remained by the time it opened in New York.)

The precariousness of local ("pre-Broadway") theatergoing is being graphically demonstrated at the Shubert Theater where a new musical revue entitled "Dance Me A Song" is currently playing. It is the composite work of eight songwriters and 11 sketchwriters. It has an esteemed producer and a famous set designer. Its cast includes some of the brighter young names on Broadway. It could have been a swell show but it certainly isn't. In fact, except for some of the sets, all elements of "Dance Me A Song" are just basically mediocre and no amount of personable performing can help them.

Printed on the program at all such revues as this is a statement that the producer can alter the sequence and quantity of the acts at each performance in his attempt to weed out the least successful and achieve the best balance. Even though this does entail much furious program flurrying the patron curious enough to like his entertainers identified (obviously a hold-over from the days of vaudeville when the names of the various acts were printed on placards at the side of the stage), we have all come to accept it as an inherited civic calamity, like Curley or codfish or Cunningham.

However, the program for "Dance Me A Song" lists some 31 different acts, and at the performance I saw, only 21 of them were presented. Though what was shown was extremely pallid entertainment--and was presumably what the producer and director at the moment considered the best of the lot--nevertheless, I distinctly felt cheated at seeing only two-thirds of "Dance Me A Song." Ten new good acts could have changed the whole complexion of the show. Should you see it later on, may you get a better deal out of the shuffle than I did. But it's a gamble I wouldn't recommend.

Many of the talented theater people associated with "Dance Me A Song" are possibly already embarrassed at what they're doing. Since they still deserve sympathy, if not blessings, and in order not to jeopardize their future efforts, I list them only as follows: producer: Dw-ght D--re W-m-n; songs: J-m-s Sh-lt-n, L-n-rd B-rnst-n, L-ngst-n H-gh-s, M--r-ce V-l-ney; sketches: N-ney H-m-lt-n, S-m--l T-yl-r, W-lly C-x; settings: J-M--lz-n-r; cast: J--n McCr-ck-n, W-lly C-x, Ann Th-m-s, M-r-n L-rne, B-b Seh--r-r, and a performing dog named S-lv-r.

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