Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

42nd Street Moon Presents
Rodgers and Hart's By Jupiter

The 42nd Street Moon Theatre is currently celebrating their 10th Anniversary season by presenting Rodgers and Hart's little known 1942 musical romp, By Jupiter. This is the first of six concert productions of Richard Rodgers musicals 42nd Street Moon will present to celebrate the composer's 100th Birthday.

By Jupiter was the last collaboration between Lorenz Hart and composer Rodgers. It opened at the Shubert Theatre in New York on June 3, 1942, and had the stellar cast of Ray Bolger, Constance Moore and Benay Venuta. A young Vera-Ellen had a small role in the musical. The New York Post said "a thorough going delight ... its melodiousness, humor, high spirit and charm makes it one of the joys of the season". By Jupiter ran for 427 performances and I was privileged to see the original run during my summer school vacation of 1942. I found it hilarious, especially watching the antics of the amazing Ray Bolger. I even learned the words to "Ev'rything I've Got" the next year and I got to sing it at a talent show at the local Ohio theater (nope, I did not win). By Jupiter got lost after it closed in New York. There was no touring company of the show. Some theater people say it's because of the double entendres and sexual implications. Middle America was not ready for this "racy" show. Even the film studios did not want to film it because of the sexual allusions.

By Jupiter was briefly revived Off Broadway in 1967, with Fred Ebb adding some extra material. That version stared Bob Dishy in Ray Bolger's role. It was recently seen in New York as part of the Musicals in Mufti at the York Theatre. Most people had forgotten about this spicy comedy. In fact, when you mention By Jupiter, many theater buffs and professionals believe that you are talking about the opening big number "I Jupiter" in the Cole Porter musical, Out of This World.

42nd Street Moon is presenting a wonderful concert production of this melodious laugh rouser. The score sparkles with some great songs like the jaunty "Jupiter Forbid", the sly "In the Gateway of the Temple of Minerva," the cynical "Ev'rything I've Got" and the melodic "What Till You See Her." The last two have become classic standards. The plot is silly, but most plots of musicals during the war years were lighthearted and not to be taken seriously. American audiences did not go to see musicals because of the storyline but to hear the songs. The plot was merely a hook for the music.

The location is the mythological kingdom of the Amazons led by Queen Hippolyta who has an epicene son named Sapiens (the Ray Bolger role). The kingdom is at cross purposes with the civilized world wherein the women rule and do battle while the men stay home, mind the children and buy new hats. The all masculine Greek warriors lead by Theseus and Hercules invade the domain of the women warriors. Also along for the ride is a fellow named Homer who is a "war correspondent" and has just written a best seller called The Iliad. He also writes very bad poems. The Greek warriors are captured by the Amazons. Of course, love blooms between Theseus and Antiope, the warrior-leader of the Amazons. The romantic winning of Antiope is in the best Errol Flynn tradition. The other subplot involves the gender bending Sapiens using his "feminine wiles" to get his own way with the opposite sex.

Bill Fahrner is farcical as the son, Sapiens. This is the first time this very talented actor/singer has taken on such a role, and he is outstanding as the embodiment of camp humor. He does not play it over the top but gives it just the right amount of testosterone to show that he is a heterosexual. His song about "Life with Father" is hilarious and his duet on "Ev'rything I've Got" is witty.

It is a pleasure to see Lesley Hamilton returning to the stage in the role of Queen Hippolyta. She still belts out songs such as "Jupiter Forbid" and does a great comic turn with Bill in "Ev'rything I've Got." The love numbers are well handled by John Patrick Moore and Cynthia Myers. They are particularly good in the little known number called "Careless Rhapsody." He is also faultless in his two songs, "Wait Till You See Her" and "In the Gateway of the Temple of Minerva." Sean Sharp is particularly good as Homer and he commands a stage.

The large chorus, all dressed up in mock-Roman armor (yes, Roman not Greek) and flowing silk togas, are uncommonly good. All have great presence and great voices. The choreography by Janye Zaban is top drawer and Jenny Lord, the director, gives us a good, tight, professional production. The grouping and staging of the players is right on the mark. Dave Dobrusky at the piano gives the score a fast beat that is wonderful. The 42nd Moon Company has started on a high, and if this is a criteria of their upcoming 2002-03 lineup, it should be a rich and rewarding season.

By Jupiter plays through May 12 at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. Call (415)255-8207 for tickets. The next production is Rodgers and Hammerstein's lovely Pipe Dreams, with Meg MacKay, Jackson Davis and Steve Rhyne. It opens on May 22, and runs through June 9.

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

- Richard Connema

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