The Boys From Syracuse Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Lorenz Hart. New Book by Nicky Silver. Based on the Original Book by George Abbot. Directed by Scott Ellis. Chroreography by Rob Ashford. Music Direction and Vocal Arrangements by David Loud. Set Design by Thomas Lynch. Costume Design by Martin Pakledinaz. Lighting Design by Donald Holder. Sound Design by Brian Roman. Orchestrations by Don Sebesky. Fight Director - Rick Sordelet. With Jeffrey Broadhurst, Walter Charles, Toni DiBuono, Erin Dilly, Jonathan Dokuchitz, Tom Galantich, Sara Gettelfinger, Deidre Goodwin, Milena Govich, George Hall, Teri Hansen, Tripp Hanson, Jackee Harry, Tom Hewitt, Fred Inkley, Mark Lotito, Kirk McDonald, Elizabeth Mills, Lauren Mitchell, J.C. Montgomery, Scott Robertson, Allyson Turner, Lee Wilkof, Chip Zien.
It's almost unheard of these days to see a revival of a musical that has kept its original subject matter completely intact. Though it is also surprisingly uncommon for revivals to maintain the true spirit of the original piece, despite whatever changes may have been made in the material.
The new Roundabout production of The Boys From Syracuse at the American Airlines Theatre is a fairly happy example of the latter. Though not without problems, this production of the musical retelling of William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors is a solidly constructed example of the fluffiest type of musical comedy imaginable, enjoyable in the theater, but not particularly memorable afterward.
If this type of musical was common in the 1930s, there's absolutely nothing common about the score. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart composed a host of memorable songs for the show, and though there are new orchestrations by Don Sebesky, new dance arrangements by David Krane, and new vocal arrangements of music director David Loud, there's no question that the score is highly accomplished.
They're the types of songs you don't find much of anywhere anymore - onstage or elsewhere - and it's wonderful to hear them performed onstage by a group of talented performers. If the songs aren't as steeped in character as those Rodgers wrote with his later collaborators, the melodies are beautiful and won't leave your head, and the lyrics that put a broad smile on your face from the moment the curtain goes up. "Falling in Love With Love," "The Shortest Day of the Year," "This Can't Be Love," "You Have Cast Your Shadow on the Sea," and "Sing For Your Supper" are a few of the more distinguished selections, but they're all gems.
While the score Rodgers and Hart composed has been modified (a couple of songs removed, a couple of others interpolated, mostly to negligible effect), the original book by George Abbot has been almost completely rewritten by Nicky Silver. Silver retains the basic plot points of Shakespeare's original: Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse (Jonathan Dokuchitz and Lee Wilkof) arrive in Ephesus at their father's behest, and become embroiled in a case of mistaken identity with their heretofore unknown twin bothers (Tom Hewitt and Chip Zien), the Ephesus Antipholus's wife Adriana (Lauren Mitchell), her sister Luciana (Erin Dilly), and Dromio of Ephesus's wife, Luce (Toni DuBuono).
Silver goes to great pains to tackle the conventions of the "twins switched at birth genre," explaining away such long-standing issues as why the twins wear the same clothes and share the same name. Those moments are Silver's most effective and distinctive, not exactly matched by the rest of the book, which is serviceable and clever with a few genuine laughs here and there, but more smiles than anything else. Still, Silver can't disguise the fact that his book was written around the songs; in the end, whether Silver's book is more integrated than Abbott's original is still somewhat in doubt.
But he is trying to have fun, and director Scott Ellis takes this about as far as he's able. He keeps the show running smoothly, injecting pace and color where it's needed, and though the show never soars under his hand, nor does it drown or lose sight of its simple goals. The unexceptional but attractive production elements are provided by Thomas Lynch with a collection of creamy though perhaps stylistically incongruous sets, the flowing costumes by Martin Pakledinaz, and the splashy lights of Donald Holder.
The one member of the creative team without a firm imprint on the show is choreographer Rob Ashford. His most impressive dance is that for "Sing For Your Supper," almost at the end of the show, when Luciana, Adriana, and Luce confront the courtesans and their Madam (Jackee Harry), patronized all too often by the Ephesian Dromio. But Ashford's other work here is flavorless and strangely indistinct across the board.
The performers generally do the material justice. Dilly is the show's primary standout, her singing wonderful, her acting and comedy skills spot-on, and her performance of "This Can't Be Love" with Dokuchitz at the end of the first act is a particular highlight. Dokuchitz, however, makes less of an impression elsewhere, and always seems to be trying too hard. Hewitt, with his effortless smarminess is much better, as are Zien and Wilkof as the Dromios. DiBuono is earthy and frequently funny, and Harry adds a dose of gaudy glamour to her scenes, but Mitchell, while singing well, is stately but sedate, like Dokuchitz, just not having enough fun.
And fun is what it's all about. The show being presented here isn't exactly what Rodgers and Hart created, and while that calls their above-the-title billing into question, they are the undisputed stars of the evening. Their songs still entertain and thrill today, and it's great to have them sung on the Broadway stage again. Even if this production is an imperfect vehicle for the songs, this Boys From Syracuse is a perfectly acceptable vehicle for giving its audience an old-fashioned good time.