San Francisco Theater Review: I MARRIED AN ANGEL (42nd Street Moon at the Eureka Theater)

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by Chuck Louden on November 10, 2013

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


The original 1938 Broadway production of Rodgers and Hart’s I Married an Angel (choreographed by George Balanchine and directed by newcomer Joshua Logan no less) ran a respectable 338 performances, the national tour of which concluded right Kari Yancy and Sean Thompson in 42ndStreet Moon's production of I MARRIED AN at the Curran Theater in San Francisco (the 1942 film version is noted for being Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy’s final pairing on screen).  The old-fashioned musical comedy now returns to the City by the Bay, courtesy of 42nd Street Moon at the Eureka Theater. But does this Angel still have wings—or legs, for that matter?

This musical came at a time when stories were meant to be fluffy so that a song could be plopped in almost anywhere (a precursor to jukebox musicals, perhaps?).  These inane musicals were made more than tolerable with songs from the likes of the Gershwins and, well, Rodgers and Hart.  But the style, left over from operetta, was wearing thin; even though they had four more very decent collaborations before their breakup, it would only be five years later that the groundbreaking Oklahoma! (1943) would appear—written by the other R&H—making this form of Musical Comedy nearly an instant dinosaur.

Check out the earthbound plot of I Married an Angel:  Count Willy Palaffi (Sean Thompson) is a wealthy Budapest banker who is encouraged by his family and friends to marry.  After Palaffi asserts that no woman is good enough or strikes his fancy, divine intervention in the form of an angel (Kari Yancy) appears.  Of course it’s love at first sight and they instantly elope.  The comedic element sets in when Sean Thompson, Halsey Varady and Allison Rich in 42ndStreet Moon's production of I MARRIED AN ANGEL.this ethereal being, naïve and truthful, doesn’t mix with the somewhat less than honest ways a banker needs to be to succeed in the world.  Count Willy’s sister, Countess Peggy Palaffi (Allison Rich), steps in to help the Angel adapt to “stretching” the truth and learn womanly ways to influence men.

The show takes place in 1930 Budapest, and director Greg Mackellan’s version, complete with a huge ensemble, uses a libretto (by Rodgers and Hart as well) that has not been updated for the new millennium, as was done with the Gershwin’s Crazy for You (1992).  Consequently it plays out as it is:  an antiquated musical one would see on the late show on a cable channel.  While it’s certainly pleasant, it’s also fairly predictable.  Zack Thomas Wilde’s song-and-dance numbers are highly entertaining, and several of the principals are quite adept at tap dancing. However, with the exception of “Spring is Here” and the title ditty, the songs are not particularly memorable.

The performances are a mixed bag:  The capable and attractive leads cover the dialogue and sing well (music director Dave Dobrusky), but their ambiguous take on the characters seems bland.  The real standouts are the supporting players:  The over-the-top reactions and gestures of Allison Rich as the Countess evokes Carol Burnett, and she steals every scene she’s in.  Halsey Varady as Anna Murphy, the gold-digging American who tries to steal the Count for herself, also has a Bill Fahrner, Sean Thompson and Kari Yancy in 42ndStreet Moon's production of I MARRIED AN ANGEL.commanding presence and all eyes are on her when she’s on stage.  (The sketches and swatches of Ruth Raser Timbrell’s costume design look gorgeous in the lobby, but convert into an equally mixed bag on stage:  Some costumes are brightly colored and form-fitting while others appear drab and ill-fitting.)

Dances used to be inserted without forwarding plot back in the day (Agnes DeMille’s choreography in Oklahoma! would change that as well), but since the musical has a running time of two and a half hours including intermission, the superfluous dance scene in the second act drags the show down. But it’s important to note that the more mature patrons enjoyed it immensely and would exclaim out loud how delighted they were with the dance as well as the entire production, singing and humming as they were exiting the theater.  While 42nd Street Moon specifically celebrates the art and spirit of older and somewhat lesser-known American musicals, they proclaim in their mission statement that they want to appeal to younger theater constituents.  As an aging baby boomer, I found the show pleasant enough, but I couldn’t imagine the show having much interest or appeal to younger theater goers.  But for those seeking nostalgia and familiarity, this is the angel they’ve been praying for.

Allison Rich, Sean Thompson and Nathaniel Rothrock in 42ndStreet Moon's production of I MARRIED AN ANGEL.

photos by David Allen

I Married an Angel
42nd St Moon at the Eureka Theater
scheduled to end on November 17, 2013
for tickets, call (415) 255-8207 or visit

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