Regional Reviews: San Francisco
The Cat and the Fiddle
The 42nd Street Moon Company is currently presenting the truly neglected Jerome Kern musical The Cat and The Fiddle at the Eureka Theatre. The original musical opened at the Globe Theatre, now named the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, in New York on October 15, 1931 with Odette Myrtil, George Metaxa and a very young Eddie Foy Jr. It received unanimous praise from the critics and one critic said "a score as fine as anything Mr. Kern has ever done. Another critic said "Broadway has not heard lovelier music in all its life". It ran 395 performances, an exceptionally long run for the time. From the score came two great standards, "She Didn't Say Yes" and "The Night Was Made for Love," and to a lesser degree the lovely song "I Watch the Love Parade". The show toured the states for a long time after it closed on Broadway.
MGM made a black and white film in 1934 starring Jeanette McDonald, Ramon Novarro, Frank Morgan and Vivienne Segal of Pal Joey fame. In 1990 John McGlinn conducted a concert version at Carnegie Hall with Davis Gaines, Judy Kaye, Paige O'Hara and Jason Graae. The critics love the lush melodies of Jerome Kern.
42nd Street Moon did a concert version in a slightly abbreviated form in 1994. Returning in this production are the excellent singer and actor Bill Fahrner and character actor Sean Sharp. In the '94 concert, Mr. Fahrner played the Belgian street singer Pompineau and now he plays the classical composer Victor Florescu. Sean Sharp is repeating his original role as Major Chatterley. Mr. Fahrner not only has a powerful voice but gets to do some very fine acting in the second act. As usual, Mr. Sharp is one of the most professional actors on this stage.
The musical takes place in Brussels and it tells of the attraction between a Romanian classical composer, Victor Florescu, and a vivacious woman jazz composer from America, Shirley Sheridan. Their music styles clash when a producer tries to lighten Victor's operetta, The Passionate Pilgrim, with some of the jazz composer's uptempo numbers. However, as in all operettas, everything turns out fine and the two find true love together. The plot does lag a bit and there are stretches where there is no singing. But the delightful piano duo Barbara Day Turner and Brandon Adams keep the exquisite music going in the background.
I forgot about the plot and just sat back to listened to the unique melodies of the master. The choral work is sublime and the cast has high quality voices. 42nd Street regular Susan Himes Powers gives a sterling performance as the jazz composer. She has an enchanting voice and performs a lovely rendition of "She Didn't Say Yes." Newcomer G. Scott Kaufman, a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, plays Pompineau the street singer. He doesn't catch the romantic flavor of the role, but his rendition of "The Night Was Made for Love" is lovely.
This is a beautiful score by the great Jerome Kern and it is worth seeing this production just for the exquisite music and the singing. The musical runs through Sunday, July 22 with tickets from $22 to $25 at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. Call 415-255-8207 for tickets or visit their web site at www.42ndstmoon.com. The next production will be Styne, Comden and Green's Do Re Mi, which opens on August 1 and runs through the 19th.