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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Pipe Dream


42nd Street Moon Company opened the second show of the current Richard Rodgers Centennial at the Eureka Theatre with the Rodgers and Hammerstein lightweight musical Pipe Dream. This probably is the weakest of the R & H string of musical productions. The musical was based on John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday and even the author was unhappy with the way the pair made his characters of whores, drifters and dropouts into sweet little things. Rewriting was constantly being done even when it opened in Boston. Pipe Dream opened at the Shubert Theatre on November 30, 1955 with opera singer Helen Traubel playing the madam of the whorehouse, William Johnson playing the scientist, Mike Kellin playing a guy name Hazel, and Judy Tyler playing the whore.

I saw the musical at the Shubert in January 1956 and was very disappointed with the production. It had some lovely music but much of it sounded like outtakes from Carousel and South Pacific. The show ran for a limp 246 performances. Richard Rodgers said later "If there were any tears in my eyes at opening night, it was because Pipe Dream was the weakest musical Oscar and I had ever done together." It never toured. Today there have been very few revivals of the score. 42nd Street Moon did a revival in 1995 with Beth Wilmurt and Jim Friedman in the role and it was very successful.

Unfortunately, something was lacking on opening night with the current cast. It was slow and very cumbersome and the singers/actors just did not have the zip to put the show over. It might have been opening night nerves or very little rehearsal time since the leads are all stage veterans. Jackson Davis who plays the scientist is good as Doc, however he seemed to be missing the high notes on some of his songs, straining his voice on "All At Once You Love Her." He is supposed to be a moody character but he was just a little too moody on opening night. Meg Mackay was particularly outstanding in the reprise of "All At Once You Love Her" in the second act. She plays the madam Fauna and she did excel in her songs. Steve Rhyne plays the somewhat slow Hazel. He was somewhere between Lennie of Of Mice and Men and Gomer Pyle of Mayberry. His one big number is "Thinkin'" in the second act, but he raced through the number. Marcie Henderson must have had an off night playing Suzi, the street girl with a heart of gold. She just did not ring true to the character and her voice was weak in most numbers. Scene changes dragged and it was difficult to care what happen to the characters of Cannery Row. The chorus was terrific and voices blended perfectly in "A Lopsided Bus" and "The Party That We're Gonna Have Tomorrow Night". The girl chorus was fine in the opening of the second act with "The Happiest House on the Block."

It is very possible that the cast has improved since opening night since the score is charming. It's lovely and very warm. It is still good to see a rarely performed Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical and I give Greg MacKellan credit for presenting this little known "lost" musical.

Pipe Dream plays through June 9 at the Eureka Theater, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-255-8207 or go online at www.42ndStMoon.org. Their next production will be A Connecticut Yankee at the Herbst Theatre for six performances only. There will a full orchestra with this Rodgers and Hart's musical. It opens on August 21. On July 1 the company will present A Grand Night For Rodgers at the Herbst Theatre for one night only. Scheduled to appear will be Celeste Holm, Andrea Marcovicci, Patricia Morison, Steve Ross, Jeff Harnar and Klea Blackhurst.


Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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