NEW GIRL IN TOWN IS A IRISH JIGG OF A MUSICAL IN OLD TOWN NEW YORK THAT WILL INSPIRE THE POWER OF LOVE
The spring brings a “sporten” lady to the 42nd Street Moon Stage at the Eureka theatre. “NEW GIRL IN TOWN” is now on stage through April 16th at the Eureka in San Francisco. The musical comedy is based on Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy "Anna Christie." First seen on Broadway in a 1957 production that ran for a year, the show garnered a rare Tony Award tie for best actress in a musical for its two leading ladies, Thelma Ritter and the now-legendary Gwen Verdon with Bob Fosse on the creative team, but has never had a major revival. 42nd Moon’s goal is to produce rare lost musicals, and that is the case with this lusty production. Artistic director Daren A.C. Carollo does a satisfying production of this 90-minute one act musical with a rousing 10 member cast. O'Neill's original story was a heavy drama with a darker ending. This version of the story follows the love and strength of the willingness to make a positive change in their lives. George Abbott has not whitewashed the darkside it is still present, but the story is more pleasant and full of some rousing songs and dance.
Music by Bob Merrill and book by George Abbott--the comeback story about a wayward girl who tries to change her life by reuniting with her charismatic father, and unexpectedly finds love-- the score is up tune and fun with energetic tunes. Carollo also finds the bright notes with his smart staging which includes high-spirited choreography by Kelly Cooper and a tuneful score performed by Music Director Dave Dobrusky on piano. The cast includes a talented ensemble of actors who kick up their heels and stylishly portray singing, dancing saloon girls and sailors.
Fallen farm girl Anna, played by a solid yet keen performance by Allison F Rich, returns home. She arrives in 1926 New York's dockside area, defeated and cynical, yet faintly hoping to start a new life with her father whom she hasn't seen in 15 years. The musical opens with “Roll Yer Socks Up” that features the ensemble cast setting up the rustic tone of 20’s New York. Anna’s dad, Chris, who is a captain sings about his daughter in the sweet “Anna Lia” performed by the sweetly gruff local favorite Chris Vettel. Dad who thinks his daughter grew up safe and happy with relatives on a farm in Minnesota and is now a nurse. But he is unaware her cousins and family despoiled her, and she turned to selling herself on the streets after escaping the family's abuse. Rich proves her excellent voice in the ballad “On The Farm” along with the men in the cast Mark Enea, Michael Birr, and John-Elliott Kirk who sing the sentimental “Sunshine Girl”.
Anna meets a handsome young sailor Matt played by the authentic Joshua Marx, charismatic with a pitch perfect voice, who soon washes up on her father's barge, and they fall in love. Marx is dashing in “Look at Er” and with the feisty Judith Miller as Marthy they both charm the sold out audience in “Yer My Friend, Ain’tcha”. Miller is chatty comical as Chris' snappy longtime lady friend, Marthy, who is forced to leave so Chris’ daughter can move in. Anna's popularity in town and at the dock pushes Marthy to drink and a bit more, she mouths off about Anna’s past.
Most of the songs are strong and amusing, such as the line "Flings is wonderful things/but they got to be flung/by the young." Two of the more standouts are the lovers' duet "Did You Close Your Eyes?," that Rich and Marx harmonize beautifully, and "Sunshine Girl," easily the hit song is well-done. The women ensemble Ashley Garlick, Lauren Meyer and Elise Youssef give strong energetic support in various roles and fill the dance hall with their bright vintage costumes.
The 42nd Street Moon craft team is always top notch. Mark Mendelson has designed a eye catching realistic set of a dock landing pier with a wooden cabin that houses Chris and Anna and opens to a fancy dance hall and bar. The breezy and dark lighting design by Ryan Weible is convincing during a storm and moody when the two lovers discover the past. Bethany Deal's costumes are 1920s earth tones, vests, long skirts and Anna’s opening dress is colorful showing off her past whore side of her story. The feel of the rough and tumble fight scenes are handled by the romantic lead and fight captain, Josh Marx, and his work creating the real toss and tumble of roughhousing is always full throttle. Kelly Cooper's choreography is marvelous 1900’s charm "Roll Yer Socks Up" and "There Ain't No Flies on Me." are unexpectedly superb. The dance is hardly Fosse, but it is a warm and pleasant Irish jig and with that romantic feel.
In NEW GIRL IN TOWN everyone recognizes that they have the potential for transformation and redemption which is the power in this uplifting revamp. This is not your typical powerhouse Broadway smash, yet it is bold and vibrantly directed by Carollo and team. Chris Vettel owns the stage in his classic role as the traditional dad. Allison is a enthusiastic Anna, at once productive and now broken, with an accomplished voice that has so much character and depth. This is a warm fun show that has been toned down just to the fun and love of the story. 42nd Street Moon continues to revive musicals that are rare and hidden from many stages. Next up NO, NO, NANETTE later this month April 26-May 14, 2017, Eureka Theatre.
42nd Street Moon - Presents
NEW GIRL IN TOWN
Music by Bob Merrill and book by George Abbott
Directed by DAREN A.C. CAROLLO
Music Direction by DAVE DOBRUSKY
ALLISON F. RICH * JOSHUA MARX * CHRIS VETTEL * JUDITH MILLER
MIKE BIRR * MARK J. ENEA * ASHLEY GARLICK
JOHN-ELLIOTT KIRK * LAUREN MEYER * ELISE YOUSSEF
Must close April 16th
215 Jackson Street, SF Calif
One Hour and 40 min - no intermission
Tickets and more info http://42ndstmoon.org/2016-2017-season/
Photos’ by Ben Krantz