Friday, April 30, 2010
The opening staging during the overture for Promises, Promises sucks you right into the early 60's. Mad Men coutured dancers are spotlighted behind a late night working CC Baxter, played by Sean Hayes. He wants desperately to climb the corporate ladder and release himself from a dead end job. He has one thing his married superiors don't have: an apartment. The married men in his company are not shown in a favorable light and as with the show Mad Men, have no problem hopping into bed with much younger women. They sing about finding a place for 30 or 45 minutes. Nice date?! The younger women don't seem to mind giving out for a quick one in a stranger's apartment.
The story is based on the Billy Wilder movie The Apartment, which starred the always wonderful Jack Lemmon. The film seemed a lot lighter than the play, which has a hint of melancholy. Vocal powerhouse Kristin Chenoweth as Fran Kubelik evokes sadness. She's trying to be a tough cookie, but there is an underlying depression lurking in her soul. The black cloud is lifted in act two. The bar scene with Sean Hayes and Katie Finneran (she won the Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical) as Marge- the possibly still married, slightly inebriated women sitting next to him made me laugh harder than anything since The Producers. Not to give anything away, but she kills when she describes her attire. Sean plays a great drunk. In another scene he tries to position himself in a very mod chair in his superior's office and it seems like he's channeling Dick Van Dyke. His Tony nomination is well deserved.
The music was composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the original play which was set in the late 60's. The music feels more late than early 60's. The 60's was an explosive time for music with all genre being played on the radio. These arrangements sounded very true to the original soundtrack which featured Jerry Orbach. There is no mistaking the songs as being written by anyone else. The centerpiece of course is I'll Never Fall In Love Again. The acoustic duet between Kristin and Sean is very touching and a vulnerable turning point in the play. The week I saw the musical, Kristin was all over TV, singing two of the songs that were added to this production: A House Is Not A Home (Glee), which causes chills and Say A Little Prayer (on Regis and Kelly).
It's an enjoyable production, but it felt like there was a small piece of energy missing from it. I couldn't quite figure out what it was lacking. Maybe it should have been set in the swinging 60's rather than the early part of that era. Maybe the premise is just a bit dated no matter how you stage it.