Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Stage Door Theatre: Promises, Promises (3 reviews)

Stage DoorBroward Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Promises, Promises on September 25, 2015.
Infused with the swinging energy of 1968 Manhattan, PROMISES PROMISES is the musical tale of a lovelorn young executive and a romantically troubled waitress.  Featuring the hits “ A House Is Not a Home”, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”, “I Say A Little Prayer For You,”  and many more. Book by Neil Simon and music by Burt Bacharach.
Michael Leeds directed a cast that included Elliot Peterson, Jessica Brooke Sandford, James A. Skiba, Shenise Nunez, Kayley Stevens, Bob Levitt, Ashely Rubin, and Cara McMorrow.  Music Direction by Michael Larsen.
Bill  Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Broward Stage Door’s earnest intriguing revival does not sidestep that this is a period piece that satirized the period in question, especially the problematic ethical laxity of its hero.  Promises Promises cannot be modernized, and Stage Door’s crew has recreated the era from the go-go dancing to the Mad Men wardrobe to the execs’ attitudes toward women as disposable sexual objects.
Fortunately, the audience can satisfy itself with some winning performances by Elliot Peterson and Jessica Brooke Sanford, a bright peppy score from songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David, a very well-constructed script by Neil Simon, and solid leadership from director Michael Leeds, musical director Michael Larsen and notably choreographer Kevin Black.
Peterson… gives Chuck a lighter tone than perhaps the part calls for. But he does have the essential innate puppy-dog likeability and ebullience to keep the audience from being repulsed by Chuck’s opportunistic ambitions.  Peterson’s Chuck has thoroughly rationalized the repugnance of what he is doing until it comes back to bite him hard.
Sanford is a fast-rising young lead actress in the region…. Her Fran is endearing, lovely, vulnerable and impossible not to fall in love with. Her sweet singing voice and her ability to project Fran’s inner angst is well-suited to the Bacharach’s ballads such as “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” and “Knowing When To Leave.”
Skiba inhabits the slick blithely immoral Sheldrake with Arrow Shirt features and a velvet voice that sounds like he could be selling unfiltered cigarettes on television.
Thanks to Larsen, much of the cast skillfully negotiate Bacharach’s notoriously mercurial time signatures that change in mid-verse. But many of them don’t quite deliver Simon’s brilliant classic comedy with enough topspin to make the lines land, at least with the sleepy Wednesday matinee audience. Only Bob Levitt as Chuck’s next door neighbor, a doctor bemused by all the sex going on next door, and Ashley Rubin as the barfly Marge really understand the vaudeville-sitcom cadences that Simon was so skilled at creating.
Rubin, in fact, gives the best comic performance as the inebriated barfly looking for a quick hookup with Chuck who is drowning his romantic sorrows in a bottle. A tandem creation of Rubin and Leeds, Marge’s voracious sexual raptor barely conceals a profound loneliness.
Leeds, one of the best directors in town, does a solid job with the material, although the show would benefit from just a bit more arsenic baked into the warm tollhouse cookie…  A major asset is Black’s choreography, much of it recreating the ponytail-whipping posterior-gyrating frugs that fall somewhere between Dean Martin’s Golddiggers and Hullabaloo.
Alongside The Fantasticks in the adjacent theater and recent productions such A Chorus Line, Promises, Promises is proof that Broward Stage Door is ramping up the quality of its productions.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
The promise of a pleasant time at the theatre gets broken pretty quickly at Promises, Promises, now playing at Broward Stage Door Theatre in Margate.
Elliot has vocal power and an endearing quality that brings Chuck to life and makes him a hero to root for. Sanford has a sweet voice and she’s a wonderful actress, imbuing Fran with a genuine vulnerability. One of the best moments in the show is their duet of "I’ll Never Fall in Love Again," because Chuck and Fran are, of course, falling in love as they sing it.
Another wonderful scene is at the top of the second act, when Chuck tries to drown his sorrows in a local bar. He meets Marge (Ashley Rubin) and after the two engage in some flirty, drunken banter, they engage in a hilarious drunken dance before going back to Chuck’s apartment.
The problem with Broward Stage Door’s production of Promises, Promises is that this fluffy, tuneful musical is crushed by leaden pacing. The show clocks in at three hours. It’s very top-heavy the first act feels like an eternity, though the second act fares much better.
The recorded tracks, a mainstay at Broward Stage Door, are sloppy and abrupt − it often sounds like someone is lifting the needle off the record and plopping it down someplace else. The choreography is energetic, incorporating mid-1960’s dance moves, and if the dancers actually did them in sync, they might have been a highlight. Instead, the dancing looks messy.
Despite some good performances and classic songs, Broward Stage Door’s production of Promises, Promises lacks the fizz and sparkle it needs, and is as flat as a two-day-old open can of Coca-Cola. The result is three hours of mostly unfulfilled promises.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
A sweet and sour trip down memory lane, the musical is a nice fit for Margate's Stage Door Theatre, which has delivered on a nice retro niche with many of its productions.
This staging runs with a workmanlike, if a bit procedural, precision. This is mostly due to the fuzzy acting, which desperately needs more focus. Simon's comedic hand in the script doesn't even show itself with the Stage Door's version until Bob Levitt as Chuck's neighbor Dr. Dryfuss and Ashley Rubin as boozy-woozy barfly Marge insert some of the only real laughs in the two-hour show (with a 15-minute intermission). It is a handsome production, with the tall and lean chorus energetically performing the Hullabaloo/Shindig go-go choreography in front of the snazzy Mondrian-inspired set.

The Broward Stage Door Theatre presents its production of Promises, Promises through November 1, 2015.

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