Regional Reviews: San Francisco
An Entertaining Production of Nick & Nora
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 www.42ndStMoon.org. Coming up next is Frank Loesser's Where's Charley? opening on April 29th and running through May 17.