Off-Broadway Theater Review: INVENTING MARY MARTIN (York Theatre Company)

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by Paulanne Simmons on April 28, 2014

in Theater-New York


Emily Skinner, Lynne Halliday, Cameron Adams and Jason Graae in INVENTING MARY MARTIN at the York.The legendary actress and singer Mary Martin would have been 100 years old today, and to celebrate this centennial York Theatre Company is presenting the world premiere of Stephen Cole’s Inventing Mary Martin: The Revue of a Lifetime.

The show, a tribute to the star’s life and work, features a cast of four: Jason Graae, who narrates, and Cameron Adams, Lynne Halliday and Emily Skinner, who all play various incarnations of Martin. When necessary the four performers double as various other people in Martin’s life.

Cameron Adams and Jason Graae in INVENTING MARY MARTIN at the York.Martin had the good fortune of rising to fame at a time when the musical was at its height, thanks to composers and lyricists such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Rodgers & Hammerstein. So any show about her will naturally include the very best of American musical theater: “I Gotta Crow,” “Never Never Land” and “I Won’t Grow Up” from Peter Pan; “Anything You Can Do” and “I Got Lost in His Arms” from Annie Get Your Gun; “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” from South Pacific; “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, and much more—whether heard in their entirety or in a medley. Cole, who conceived, wrote, and co-directed this tepid evening, has wisely left Martin’s most famous song, the Cole Porter hit “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” for the end.

Emily Skinner in INVENTING MARY MARTIN at the York.There are also a few dance routines by co-director Bob Richard, lots of costume changes (designed by Patricia McGourty), and—scattered amongst photos of the great diva—glittering marquees announcing her many hits and occasional flops (projections by Justin West). The most inventive part of the show is Graae’s campy drag version of Martin’s 50 Years of Fashion sketch from The Ford 50th Anniversary Show, broadcast in June 1953.

Throughout, there’s the story of how a young lady from Weatherford, Texas made it to Broadway. Unlike many stars, however, Martin does not appear to have suffered from alcoholism, addiction or abuse. She doesn’t even seem to have struggled very much on her way to the top. As a result her life is rather boring. Who wants to hear a tell-all story when there’s nothing to tell?

Lynne Halliday, Emily Skinner, and Cameron Adams in INVENTING MARY MARTIN at the York.But the biggest problem with the show is simply that the three women playing this grande dame of musical theater do not add up to one Mary Martin. Their low notes get lost in the furs and the high notes do not soar. In the end, Inventing Mary Martin doesn’t so much give us Mary Martin as make us long for her.

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photos by Carol Rosegg


Inventing Mary Martin
York Theatre Company
Saint Peter’s (entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue)
scheduled to end on May 25, 2014
for tickets, call 1-212-935-5820 or visit

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