Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

An Entertaining Production of Nick & Nora
42nd Street Moon

Also see Patrick's review of Arcadia and Richard's reviews of The Braggart Soldier, or Major Blowhard and From White Plains

Ryan Drummond and
Brittany Danielle

Greg MacKellan really went out on limb to present this failed musical that ran only nine performances after opening on Broadway. Based on the MGM Thin Man film series, the musical was expected to be a mega hit, what with Charles Strouse writing the music, Richard Maltby Jr. writing the lyrics, and Arthur Laurents writing the book. It had Tony winners Barry Bostwick, Joanna Gleason, and Christine Baranski in the cast. How could it miss? Due to lack of funds they could not do out of town tryouts, which was unfortunate since the company did not have a chance to work away from the prying eyes and gossiping tongues of New York theatregoers. There were, however, 71 previews at the Marquis Theatre.

The 42nd Street Moon Production is not as bad as all that, though. Director Greg MacKellan has assembled a damn good cast of singers and dancers to play the various movie types of the 1930s. The show has some pleasing songs by Strouse and Maltby Jr. such as "Swell," "Men," "Class," and "Boom Chicka Boom." The music is strictly of the '30s, '40s and maybe '50s style.

Arthur Laurents' book might have been the problem, with the producers trying to present a murder mystery on stage and playing it straight, since it takes place in 1937 Hollywood. It is a standard plot, if you ever saw any of the Thin Man films or those wonderful "B" films that Republic and Monogram produced. The story involves a bitchy movie star (Allison F. Rich), a refugee German director (Brian Herndon), a producer's wife (Cindy Goldfield), a brassy studio bookkeeper (Nichole Frydman), a Mafia-type Hollywood backer (William Giammona), a strange Hollywood detective (Michael Barrett Austin), a stereotype Japanese houseboy (Reuben Uy), a Hollywood director's assistant (Justin Gillman), and of course Nick (Ryan Drummond) and Nora (Brittany Danielle).

Ryan Drummond and Brittany Danielle are worthy successors to William Powell and Myna Loy and give smart and smooth performances. They look like a pair out of a 1930s movie. Both have charming vocal cords and effortlessly dance together in the opening scene to "Is There Anything Better Than Dancing?." Allison Rich is believable as the bitchy movie star and looks a lot like Joan Crawford in this production. William Giammona is perfect as a Mafia boss, while Brian Herndon is terrific with an accent that sounds like Billy Wilder, with a touch of Eric von Stroheim in his voice.

Nicole Frydman is big and brassy as Lorraine Bixby while Michael Barrett Austin agreeably plays the police lieutenant as a Damon Runyon character. Justin Gillman, Davern Wright, and Megan Stetson shine in the "Boom Chicka Boom" dance number in the second act. Michael Kern Cassidy and Reuben Uy in smaller roles give good performances.

Greg MacKellan's direction is fast paced, especially in several scenes in the second act during the number "A Busy Night at Lorraine's." Staci Arriaga's choreography is smooth while Hector Zavala's set of a Hollywood Hills sign and two palm tree flats are excellent. Hector also outdid himself by designing costumes of the 1930s for the characters. Dave Dobrusky and Nick Di Scala agreeably assist the singers on piano and sax.

Nick & Nora runs through April 19th, 2015, at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For ticket call 415-255-8207 or visit Coming up next is Frank Loesser's Where's Charley? opening on April 29th and running through May 17.

Photo: David Allen

- Richard Connema

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