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CONNECTICUT
Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Good News!
Goodspeed Musicals


Barry Shafrin and Tessa Faye
Good News!, presented in East Hadddam, Connecticut, by Goodspeed Musicals, is diverting, brisk and just terrific entertainment. Set in 1927 and boasting music and lyrics by Ray Henderson, B.G. DeSylva and Lew Brown, the production showcases this landmark theater as it begins its 50th anniversary season. It continues through June 22nd.

The new adaptation by Jeremy Desmon (based on the book written by Laurence Schwab, Frank Mandel, and B.G. DeSylva) finds quarterback Tom Marlowe (Ross Lekites) destined to marry fair Pat Bingham (Lindsay O'Neil), whose family and its many dollars help support Tait College. Meanwhile red-haired Babe O'Day (Tessa Faye), blessed with malleable body and face, looks for a new boyfriend. That might just turn out to be Bobby Randall (Barry Shafrin).

Tom is interested, following his coach's advisory, in football and women—not scholarly endeavors. He flunks astronomy but is quite taken with Connie Lane (Chelsea Morgan Stock), a student who will tutor him. The faculty member who happens to be an astronomy whiz is Professor Charlotte Kenyon (Beth Glover) who recalls the days when she and current football Coach Bill Johnson (Mark Zimmerman) were classmates. Yes, predictable—but it does not matter.

One is able to anticipate various plot turns, and everyone watching must gather that, in the end, likely and unlikely individuals will couple off. Joy abounds! Good News! features tunes like "The Best Things In Life Are Free," a duet sung by Stock and Lekites. There's "You're the Cream in my Coffee," with Zimmerman and Glover. The second act includes "Button up your Overcoat" (Faye and Shafrin) as well as assistant coach Pooch (played by Max Perlman) and others combining on "Keep Your Sunny Side Up." The final scene brings Glover, Stock, and Faye together for "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries" and then everyone is on stage for "The Best Things in Life are Free" and the title tune—finales.

The Goodspeed production is a pleasure. The important creative team which includes director/choreographer Vince Pesce, dance arranger David Krane, and musical director Michael O'Flaherty adds effervescence to a piece which (without this exuberance) might feel dated. That is not the case at the Goodspeed. Costumes provided by Tracy Christensen are ever-bright greens, yellows, oranges. Late in the second act, director Pesce brings a lovely, lyrical football ballet between Tait and its rival college. The men move with grace and fluency in a number, one gathers, arranged by David Krane.

Tessa Faye (as Babe) catches attention early with her physical dexterity, enthusiasm, and embrace of her role: one who seeks a man. Barry Shafrin has comic flair. Chelsea Morgan Stock is a sweet soprano and that is evident with "Just Imagine." Zimmerman, as the head coach, and Perlman, in the role as assistant Pooch), are caricatures—delightfully so.

The requisite list of successful elements of such a musical must include both romance and comedy. Good News! has plenty of each. Many of the musical numbers are familiar and, as the evening progresses, one looks forward to yet another standard. Not to sound antiquated, but this production takes flight because it is delectably jazzed-up. I mean, really: how else could we care about a 1920s football hero who has to get by an astronomy test in order to play in the big game?

Good News! continues at Goodspeed Musicals through June 22nd. For ticket information, visit goodspeed.org or call (860) 873-8668.


Photo: Diane Sobolewski


Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol



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