Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Roman Holiday is a charming old-fashioned musical with a Cole Porter score. Based on the 1953 film starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck (which didn't have the Porter score), it is a throwback to musicals that I saw in 1940s. There are awesome sets featuring the Trevi Fountain and the La Bocca Della Verità (The Mouth of Truth) and such Cole Porter favorites as "Night and Day" and "Begin the Beguine," plus the little known "Experiment," which was introduced by Gertrude Lawrence in the 1933 musical-comedy Nymph Errant. Porter's songs are great when sung out of context, but they add no depth to the proceedings in Roman Holiday. They tell us no new information and are thrown into the plot willy-nilly.
Princess Anne (Stephanie Styles), from a vague English-speaking country, is making the rounds of capitals of Europe. When in Rome she tires of pageantry and the speeches she has to give and ducks out one night to run about the city with Joe Bradley (Drew Gehling), a sympathetic and good-looking stranger who is a newspaper reporter taking secret photographs for a headline story with the help of his friend Irving (Jarrod Spector). The plot is tame and there is no romance between them; in William Wyler's Paramount film at least Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck showed romantic feelings for each other.
Alex Sanchez's choreography has no flair or personality and is just a series of dances. The only number that comes alive is "Experiment," in which energy-driven dancers twirl around another.
Stephanie Styles as Princess Anne and Joe Bradley as Drew have good vocal chops. They are melodiously stimulating in "Experiment," "Look What I Found," "Riding High," and "Use Your Imagination." When I looked at Stephanie Styles I could not get out of my head the she looks like Snow White.
Georgia Engel plays the Countess and is a great delight with her unique voice. I wish I could have seen more of her. Jarrod Spector does a strange rendition of "Night and Day," literally screaming the words. He has pitch perfect resonance in "Take Me Back to Manhattan" and "You Do Something to Me." Sara Chase has energetic vocal cords while singing "Begin the Beguine."
Sets by Todd Rosenthal are outstanding. They are massive and the Trevi Fountain is spectacular. Costumes by Catherine Zuber are chic and stylish.
Bottom Line: Roman Holiday is decorously entertaining entertainment. It will need major revision before it goes to New York, and the Georgia Engel role needs larger exposure.
Roman Holiday the Musical runs through June 18, 2017, at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor Street, San Francisco Tickets can be had by calling 888-746-1799 or at www.shnsf.com. Coming up next to Golden Gate Theatre is the National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time running June 27 and through July 23.