Should you desire the warm promise, spontaneous smile, and all around joie de vive that a premature spring day inevitably brings forth, then travel down by March 17th to an intimate theater between Avenues A and B for a musical bubble titled “Make Mine Manhattan”. It is presented by UnsungMusicals, a non-profit company that presents somewhat obscure, but musically strong, previously successful musicals in a streamlined version. This is not a skeletal sketch but a respectful, simply staged rendition of a pleasant musical revue without all the high-tech costly, glossy trappings (not to mention the high ticket price) currently present on Broadway stages.
Lilting, legato melodies, strengthened by tuneful, telling lyrics, delivered thru strong vocals and pleasing choreography are still the foundations of sound musical theater. “Make Mine Manhattan” is carefully directed and well thought out by Ben West, and it is apparent that such essential elements are his focus and priority. Unlike so much of today’s theater, you leave uplifted rather then emotionally depleted. Only a show from Broadway’s golden age can lift you this high. It is quite refreshing to attend a show where I don’t have to wring my hands, but rather use them for rounds of deserved applause.
“It is quite refreshing to attend a show where I don’t have to wring my hands, but rather use them for rounds of deserved applause.”
This delicious romp is like a strawberry milkshake immediately followed by a Brandy Alexander. Charm, naïveté and urban wit in one “swell” evening. Then again, perhaps “Make Mine Manhattan” deserves a round of “Cosmopolitans” sophisticatedly sipped during its presentation — there is a smart, cabaret feel to this show, especially in the use of a strong solo piano as sole accompaniment. The score bouncily insists in several song and dance reprises that “Anything Can Happen in New York.”
We are in 1948 NYC, the war is over, men are anxious to put this darkness behind them, and start new lives. Optimism is rampant, especially in great Gotham, with Times Square as its urban center and ready yardstick, professionally and personally. Stage door Johnnies abound. The theaters are open and ready to audition a cast, as well as entertain the swelling populous. There is no TV in our homes, theater is a major form of entertainment. This revue is representative of a simpler, easier time when courting was an art form, and love happened at first sight. You could arrive in NYC, walk under the Biltmore clock, and readily find fame, fortune and someone to love without all the angst and anxiety of today.
“This revue is representative of a simpler, easier time when courting was an art form, and love happened at first sight.”
The original “Make Mine Manhattan” ran in January 1948 thru January 1949 when Schrafft’s was an affordable Saturday night date for a young couple, followed by a romantic stroll thru Central Park. Now one partner lives down on New Lots Avenue in Brooklyn and the other up on 247th Street in the Bronx, but a subway is their common denominator as explained in the witty “Subway Song.” And so we all meet in the borough of Manhattan — tourists, stage struck kids, young lovers — the ultimate middle ground where again, anything can happen. See…every problem has a solution! And so it goes, each song innocently tells a story, and invariably, happy endings abound.
This charming cast blends amazingly well, yet individually there are some strong performances. Nicolas Dromard immediately sets a comfortable stage tone and his confident stage presence, as well as some fine dancing, makes him a stand out. LaQuet Sharnell is especially luminous in her torch song numbers and stunning red dress. Greg Reuter, Gabrielle Ruiz and Bret Shuford nicely play off each other in a comic vignette about theater critics (no offense taken!) while Kristen J. Smith provides lovely vocals in several duets with Bret. Kudos to the Choreographer, Rommy Sandhu, for entertainingly moving this cast about while keeping it always light and sweet.
Visit UnsungMusical’s website for performance dates and times of “Make Mine Manhattan”. Looking forward to UnsungMusicals next presentation, for where else can we experience such fine music that should never have been forgotten in the first place?
WHERE: The Connelly Theatre 220 East 4th Street New York, New York WHEN: March 1st to March 17th, 2012 TICKETS: $18 and may be purchased here.
By: Joanne Theodorou