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Boston by Suzanne Bixby

Springtime for Henry

The final offering of Nicholas Martin's lackluster third season at The Huntington Theatre in Boston is an effervescent production of a less than vintage play. Springtime for Henry by Benn W. Levy, a second string Noel Coward, was a 1931 Broadway hit. Character actor Edward Everett Horton then took it on the road for the next twenty-five years making him the James Tyrone of frothy comedy. That notwithstanding, Mel Brooks has forever insured its place in theatre history by co-opting the title and turning it into "Springtime for Hitler" for The Producers.

Martin has threatened us with this play for a while now, finally confirming it for this season as a vehicle for Robert Sean Leonard. When Leonard withdrew to do Long Day's Journey into Night, he cast a quartet of young performers from his roster of regular players. They are all so adept at a particular brand of physical comedy Martin executes so adroitly, that it's hard to imagine Leonard in this production. At any rate, the end result is an unusual, fresh spin on what is otherwise a dated, talky comedy of bad manners.

Springtime for Henry
Jessica Stone and
Christopher Fitzgerald

After a dynamite opening moment, the first act is one long, tedious setup for some delightful twists and turns in the second half of the evening. Christopher Fitzgerald (seen in Boston in Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme) and Jessica Stone (Betty in the Huntington's Betty's Summer Vacation) are utterly charming as playboy Henry Dewlip and the straight-laced secretary Miss Smith who undertakes his reformation with earnest zeal. (Soon to be husband and wife, they met in the 1999 Encores! production of Babes in Arms and appeared together last summer in Martin's Where's Charley at Williamstown Theatre Festival.)

Rounding out the cast are Jeremy Shamos (also seen here in Observe the Sons of Ulster ...) as Dewlip's best friend and Mia Barron (Ellie Dunn in The Huntington's Heartbreak House) as his flirtatious wife. Shamos is particularly delightful when he too falls for Miss Smith and tries to impress her with his pedagogy in Classical mythology.

Although ably abetted by set designer James Noone and costume designer Michael Krass, this talented cast is saddled with having to adopt an English veneer that's not quite second nature. A brief musical interlude with Shamos and Barron between the second and third acts hints that it would be much more fun to romp through an American musical period piece with this foursome than a tired British anachronism. But this year in particular, we'll take anything that brings a little hint of spring to Boston.

Springtime for Henry at the Huntington Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue in Boston now through June 15th. Please note the performance dates and time: Tuesday - Thursday at 7:30pm (excluding May 27); Friday and Saturday at 8pm; Sundays at 7pm (June 1 and June 8 only); Saturday and Sunday at 2pm (excluding June 17 and 18); and Wednesday at 2pm (June 4 and 11 only). For tickets call the Huntington Box Office at 617 266-0800, visit their website at www.huntingtontheatre.org or call Ticketmaster at 617 931-2787.


Photo: Carol Rosegg


Be sure to check the current schedule for theatre in the Boston area.



- Suzanne Bixby



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