Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Rodgers And Hart's Too Many Girls
Also see Richard's review of Big River
The 42nd Street Moon Company is concluding their 10th Anniversary Richard Rodgers Centennial Season with Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Herbert Fields' Too Many Girls, a fun musical that has rarely been revived. This "football musical" opened at the Imperial Theatre in New York on October 18, 1939, and ran for 249 performances. The cast included Marcy Westcott, a new comic by the name of Eddie Bracken, a great dancer Hal LeRoy (who had the longest male dancer legs in Broadway history), and a new find that was to become the toast of Broadway, Desi Arnaz. Also in the chorus was an unknown dancer by the name of Van Johnson.
Lorenz Hart had found Desi leading a small combo in a nightclub in Miami, Florida. He took an instant liking to the young man, and brought him to New York to play in a club. When casting for Too Many Girls began, Hart wanted Arnaz to play a football player from Argentina. Since the young Cuban had never appeared on stage, Hart trained and coached him for his audition. Desi got the job and became a sensation over night.
Too Many Girls was an instant hit with the New York Times saying "sets you swaying to some of the most enchanting music the gifted Mr. Rodgers has ever written, matched by some of Mr. Hart's most felicitous and audacious lyrics." RKO films became interested and named contract players Richard Carlson and Lucille Ball as the stars of the film version. Desi Arnaz, Hal LeRoy, Eddie Bracken and Van Johnson came to Hollywood to appear in the movie. A young Ann Miller was also cast in the film. The actual film version did not change one word from the original stage version with the exception of the word "virgin," which was changed to "girls who have never necked." The word was shocking to the innocent audiences of the '30s. Ben Bagley revived the musical for his Painted Smiles record company with Nancy Andrews, Johnny Desmond, Estelle Parsons and Anthony Perkins in a studio recording made in 1977.
Too Many Girls boasts an enhanced score by Rodgers with daring and clever lyrics by Hart. Where else can you find lyrics like these, to "Shake the Maracas"?
She could shake the maracas
The score contains two standards, "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" and "You're Nearer." Occasionally, you hear the "Give It Back to the Indians" song by a comic cabaret artist.
The plot in Too Many Girls is ridiculously silly, but remember it's 1939 and those were still the innocent years in America, even with a war raging in Europe. The comedy follows the adventures of Connie Casey (Cynthia Myers), a "high spirited" rich American heiress who has just returned from a series of scandalous adventures in Europe. Connie decides to go back to college and she wants to go to her father's Alma matter, Pottawatomie College in New Mexico. However, Harvey Casey (Don Cima) wants to be sure that Connie doesn't get into mischief so he hires four professional football players as her bodyguards. The football players are romantic leading man good-looking Clint Kelly (Joshua Powell), girl crazy Argentinian Manuelito (Kieran Chavez), second lead Al Terwilliger (Matthew Hutchens) and diminutive comic Jojo Jordan (Christian Cagigal). Connie does not know these men are bodyguards.
The players learn that the college is in financial trouble so they donate their salaries to the college. They also find out that the college has not won a football game in their 75 year history so they join the team. Suddenly (it could happen only in a '30s musical), the team becomes the number 1 team in America. Meanwhile, Clint falls in love with Connie and vice versa. Toward the end of the musical, Connie finds out that Clint is being paid by her father, and she demands that the four players accompany her back to New York the night before the last big game. Will they leave? Will Clint be forgiven? Will we have a happy ending??? Of course - its 1939.
Greg MacKellan has assembled a great cast of new and old favorites of 42nd Street Moon for its last Richard Rodgers show of the season. Bill Fahrner plays poetic playwright Beverly Waverly (now there is name of conjure with). Book writer Herbert Fields patterned the character after Noel Coward; however, Bill drops the Coward accent and uses something like a high class Bostonian accent. Bill's role is mostly comic but he does an excellent rendition on the romantic ballad, "You're Nearer." Stealing the show is Kieran Chavez, playing Manuelito. His accent is more Cuban - like Desi Arnaz. Kieran, who is also a choreographer, is excellent in the song and dance number "She Could Shake the Maracas."
Matthew Hutchens, who is becoming quite a dancer and singer himself, is outstanding in "All Dressed Up (Spic and Spanish)." 42nd Street regular Lisa Peers as head of the student union belts out "Give It Back to the Indians" Ethel Merman style, referring to Manhattan. Joshua Powell once again shows his versatility by singing the lovely duet "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" with Cynthia Myers, who also has a bell clear voice. Taylor Jordan sports a Lupe Velez accent, and Peppy Delgado shakes a mean dance with her Ann Miller legs in "She Could Shake the Maracas." Christian Cagigal, who plays Jojo, is a company regular and he plays comedy like the late Jimmy Savo. Don Cima and Michael Cronin are amusing in the comic "Pottawatomie." The rest of the cast camps it up and all have great energy in both song and dance.
Once again, Greg shows what a great director he is in presenting the original '30s musicals using the style of those innocent days. Musical director Brandon Adams also is brilliant on the piano, and the choreography by Jayne Zaban on the small stage is first rate.
Too Many Girls runs at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco, through December 15. Tickets can be obtained by calling 415-255-8207 or online at www.42ndStMoon.org.