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When the plot of a musical comedy is skimpy, when the acting is spotty, and the music questionable, the show should be a real stinker. But such minor quibbles have never bothered Drumbeats and Song in previous productions, and certainly had little effect if any on this year's --Miss Informed.
The show begins on a somewhat regrettable note when the Master of Ceremonies cries, "This is your life..." Clara Mae is then bustled stagewards to watch her life travel from Gruel, Wyoming to Radcliffe College, where Clara proceeds to make good in the social "supermarket." The first act takes Clara through the Radcliffe Library, a jolly-up and a few other slow starters. What saves the act from becoming disastrously tiresome is the free swinging chorus girls (sixteen, in charming red shorts, weighing a collective ton) and the show-stopping humor of Liz Stearns as the charcoalgrey, knee-soxed intellectual who is seized by the need to know (first hand) what happens when the intellectual "worm turns."
After a while the show gets back to Clara Mae (Betsy Nelson) as she wonders how to win the Miss Informed intellectual beauty contest, and how to pick a beau from her two suitors, Dick and Derek, played by Richard Hines and Theodore Lappas. The young swains provided one of the more musically delightful duets of the evening as they pranced through "Why Do You Keep Us On a String?"
Clara Mae's main competition for the Miss Informed title are Ivy (Marguerite Tarrant) and the house mother, Miss Havisham (Helen Bee) who gives the girls the benefit of the knowledge gained from her old house in Atlantic City. The rest of the plot comes with the romance of bashful bohemian Fred (John Baker) and his less-shaggy but more-shrewd soul force Priscilla (Sallie Wolfe). Baker's voice is shaky, but he was a solidly insecure bohemian. Miss Wolfe's singing voice is pleasant, but her acting was wooden. As Fred's intellectual playmate, Alice Oberg's red hair and fluid hips more than excused her voice as she sang, "A Flat on Brattle Street."
By the second act the plot, the actors, and to some extent the music warmed up. Herbert Parsons as a proper professor was a charming satirist as he sang of the professor's duty to learn, not teach. As his lonely man, Duane Murner gave one of the few professional performances of the evening with "Section Man's Lament."
Through all this Clara Mae is learning. As performed by Betsy Nelson, Clara is properly wide-eyed and sings well. By the plays end she, and the audience, are satisfied, which is a tribute to the cast's enthusiasm and that of the production staff. The book and lyrics by Margo Dennes and Al Jacobs were of little help. One good song, "Society" got mediocre assistance from Marguerite Tarrant. Peter Davis' music had but a few good moments.
The opening night music was pounded out with proper gusto by Fred Johnson. An extra amount of praise goes to Liz Stearns, who performed on short notice and directed the show. The final best critique of Miss Informed was sung by her Gretchen, "I just want to have a little fun!" Drumbeats is not much more than fun, but that's enough.
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