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San Francisco by Richard Connema

A Good Production of The Goodbye Girl
at Bus Barn Theatre


Also see Richard's reviews of Three Blooms and Children of Eden

The Bus Barn Stage Company of Los Altos is currently presenting a good, scaled-back production of Marvin Hamlisch, David Zippel and Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl without all of the bells and whistles of the New York production of 1993. The story, and even some of the dialogue, comes straight from the successful film of the same name. This production is graced by two talented leads: Molly Carter as Paula and David Curley as Elliott.

The Goodbye Girl opened at the Marquis Theatre in New York on March 4, 1993. How could such a musical miss, with Bernadette Peters and Martin Short in the lead, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by David Zippel, book by Neil Simon and directed by Michael Kidd? Reviews were tepid and most people blamed the director for mounting a mammoth production for such a simple story.

London's West End presented a drastically rewritten version on the smaller stage of the Albery Theatre in 1997. This production starred Gary Wilmot and Ann Crumb. Reviews were better and, as one reviewer said, "Nicely done." Later that year, this version was presented in Philadelphia with Donna McKechnie and Tony Freeman. Many regional and community theaters have latched onto the musical through its representatives at MTI. The delightful show needs only two top singers/actors and a small cast with minimum scenery to make it a hit with the audience. Bus Barn has two top singers/actors and presents an audience friendly piece.

The Goodbye Girl tells the story of Paula (Molly Carter), a 33 year old ex-Broadway dancer who has had a long sequence of failed relationships with actors. She is the mother of 10 year old Lucy (Emily Trumble), who is very hip in the ways of New York City actors and dancers. Paula's latest boyfriend, Tony (not seen in the musical) , whose name is on the lease, has split for Spain for a role in a film leaving Paula and Lucy high and dry. To make matters worst, without Paula's knowledge, Tony has sublet the apartment to another actor, Elliott (David Curley), just in from Chicago to play Richard the Third in the Shakespeare play of the same name.

Paula and Elliott make an agreement to share the two bedroom apartment, and there is great animosity between the two. However, we all know what is going to happen since hate turns to love by the second act. Neil Simon's quips fly fast and furious between the two. There is plenty of broad comedy, with the romantic bits coming in later.

The Goodbye GirlA major highlight toward the end of the first act happens when the Hungarian director (Ray Renati) wants a new and drastic version of Richard. He wants Elliot to play the king as a man impersonating a woman impersonating a man. Go figure how this comes about, but Curley really camps up a storm, dressed in tights with a balloon type pant that makes him look like a court jester. His fey Richard is hilarious and brings down the house.

Gregg Zigler does a clever put on of Richard Simons on the television show. He even looks like the guy as he is dressed in a basketball outfit yelling to the audience as to who is skinny, who is mid-fat and who is really fat. He proceeds to introduce three dancers dressed in foods that you should not eat singing "Too Good To Be Bad." Dawn K. Burroughs does a nice bit as the sassy landlady. She also sings a nice rendition of "2 Good 2 B Bad" to Lucy. Emily Trumble as the 12 year old daughter has a big, melodic voice and tremendous composure.

David Curley, who has played in TheatreWorks productions of Ragtime, Bat Boy and Memphis, is first-rate. This is the first time Curley has been able to sing a lead, and he has a strong and clear voice. His singing is easeful and confident. He uses the Richard Dreyfuss voice in most of the dialogue and it works fine. Molly Carter as Paula is a perfect foil for David Curley. She reminds me of Dorothy Collins, and her performance comes over as a sympathetic person who has seen too many men walk out of her life. She has a good voice for the Hamlisch songs and good harmony in her duets with Curley and Trumble. Her dance moves are also great.

Marvin Hamlisch's score reminds me of some of his songs in A Chorus Line, though some of the songs are bland. However, they do blend well with the story. David Zippel's lyrics are clever in some of the songs, especially "This Is As Good as it Gets," the opening song. Direction by Barbara J. Cannon is on the mark. All in all, this is a nice, pleasant musical for community theater.

The Goodbye Girl runs through April 17. The Bus Barn theater is located in the Hillview Community Center just off San Antonio Road in Los Altos. For tickets call 650-941-0551 and check out www.busbarn.org.

The Bus Barn Theatre Group's next production is Pierre and Marie, adapted by Ron Clark and based on the play Les Almes de M. Schutz by Jean-Noel Fenwick. It opens on May 20th and runs through June 19.


Photo: Barbara Cannon


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


- Richard Connema



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