Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Me and My Girl is a Happy Show
Also see Richard's review of Nickel and Dimed
The Marin Theatre Company again teams up with Allegro Theatre Group to present the grand old musical of 1937, Me and My Girl. The tuneful musical score comes from Noel Gay with book and lyrics by L. Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber and a current revision by Stephen Fry. This happy musical opened at the Adelphi Theatre in London in December 1937 where it became the longest running musical of '30s and the biggest wartime hit in that city. The Lambeth Walk became one the great dance sensations during the war, both in England and America.
Me and My Girl was revived in London in 1984 where we saw the production at the Adelphi Theatre with Robert Lindsay and Emma Thompson as the leads. The show transferred to Broadway in 1986 where we saw Mr. Lindsay repeat the role with Maryann Plunkett playing the female lead; the musical played 1420 performances at the Marquis. Jim Dale played the lead role here on the West Coast where I saw it the third time. Me and My Girl also had a recent revival in the UK in 2001, and Goodspeed Opera presented the musical this summer.
Directed by Lee Sankowich and choreographed by Richard Gibbs, this is a polished production. The musical is fast moving, has energetic dance routines, and Stephen Fry's hilarious script has some great lines. "The Lambeth Walk" number is still infectious and it gives act one a bubbly ending. I would have liked to have seen a little more of the number since it is one of the highlights of the show. "Song of Hareford" is outstanding in its comic presentation with each of the dancer/singers dressed in hilarious costumes as ancestors of the Earl of Hareford. Mark Farrell looks like a 17th Century French king who flops about the stage dressed like Louis VI and sporting a flowing white curly wig. Kristin Price as Richard III, dressed in black and with a hump on her back, dances and walks as if she were in the Olivier film. Gibbs' choreography is very good in "The Sun Has Got His Hat On" and "Leaning on a Lamp Post," with Alex Hsu doing some very good ballet moves during the dance number.
Michael Babin (Marie Christine and Jane Eyre on Broadway) wins over the audience with his vigorous comic performance and great Cockney accent. He has a pleasant voice and excellent comic timing. Julie James (Ruth in Marin's Wonderful Town) plays girlfriend Sally Smith in a feisty creative manner. She has a strong voice that is bell clear in her two solo songs, "Once You Lose Your Heart" and "Take It on the Chin." Sally also sports a good East London accent.
Me and My Girl boasts some great supporting players. Maureen McVerry plays Maria, the Duchess of Dene, with the right spin of pure British royalty noblesse oblige. Mark Farrell (Wonderful Town and Lady In the Dark at Marin Theatre) once again shows his comic aptitude as Gerald, the perfect upperclass English twit who "is horrified at the thought of work." His English voice sounds very much like a male Maggie Smith. He is engaging in the duet "Thinking of No One But Me" with Lady Jacqueline played by Celia Shuman. Shuman is very effective as the stunning man-hunting vamp. Colin Thomson has a certain amount of relaxing allure as the tipsy Sir John, and Dick Kellogg makes a perfect English butler who is never out of character - even when he sings and dances in the ensemble. John Patrick Moore as the barrister in the "Family Solicitor" number steals the scene with his hysterical dance.
Richard Olmsted's set is patterned after the Goodspeed Opera design with an elaborate gilt frame surrounding the stage. The baronial scene is right on the mark, especially the three pictures of Earl's ancestors coming to life in the second act. Laura Hazlett's costumes are period '30s and the women's clothes are beautiful. David Lohman's small ensemble band hidden at the back of the stage starts out a little weak but finally gets a good beat as the musical progresses. Lee Sankowich has staged a splendid happy production of this tuneful musical.
Me and My Girl runs through October 5th at the Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley. For tickets call 415-388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org.
The next production will be Craig Wright's The Pavilion which opens on November 6th.