Los Angeles Theater Preview: THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE (Musical Theatre West in Long Beach)

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by Tony Frankel on November 9, 2016

in Theater-Los Angeles


Musical Theatre West’s (MTW) Reiner Reading Series begins its 2016-17 season with a musical from the beginning of the second decade of the Broadway Musical’s Golden Age. Some say this era began with Oklahoma! in 1943, but it’s also safe to say it began in 1927, the year that Showboat was born. The fully integrated musical was all but nonexistent in the 1930s: During this decade, producers and audiences alike craved escapist fare during the Great Depression. While Hollywood had the visuals of Busby Berkeley and the songs of Dubin and Warren, The Great White Way cranked out shows which were constructed piecemeal. Producers would grab a comic star here, a songwriting team there, whoever was available, really. To them, the plot was often something to endure until we get to the next great tune. But what tunes! Kern, Gershwin, Porter, and Berlin–to name a few–were pumping out the standards still being covered by today’s artists.

And that’s what you can expect this Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, when MTW presents The Boys From Syracuse, the 1938 musicalization of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. But when you hear them done by today’s hottest musical theater artists in the land, a large ensemble, a superlative live 14-piece orchestra (led by director David Lamoureux), you will not only leave this one-night only event high on the supreme silliness of it all, but you will actually be humming the tunes–even if you’ve never heard them before. When was the last time you said that about a new musical? For those who remember these tunes, you’ll be amazed that they all came from this one show. Standards like “This Can’t Be Love,” “Falling in Love with Love,” “Sing for Your Supper,” and “This Can’t be Love” (introduced by Eddie Albert) are just some of the classic songs in this fluffy concoction.

Towards the end of the ’30s, musicals were still for the most part created by artists who took their comedy lightly (Porgy and Bess and Of Thee I Sing were some of the rare important ambitions). Rodgers & Hart wrote at a time when little was demanded of a musical comedy: the performers and songwriters were the stars. As such, they had many hit shows, but few memorable ones (Pal Joey is their lone classic, as MTW proved early this year). Rodgers best theater music was written with Oscar Hammerstein, but his best stand-alone songs were written with Hart.

Librettist George Abbott, one of the most influential men in the history of musical theater, tended to be an anti-intellectual snob and shared with Rodgers & Hart a practical theater-making attitude. Shakespeare, for Abbot, was strictly material. Still, it is the Shakespearean source that makes The Boys From Syracuse playable beyond its era (“If it’s good enough for Shakespeare,” Hart was quoted as saying, “it’s good enough for us”). As far as I know, it has been revised (and reworked) more than any other Rodgers & Hart musical, except for Pal Joey.

This joyous romp retains the story of the twin Antipholuses (Gabriel Kalomas and Eric Michael Parker), separated by accident shortly after birth, and their twin servants, both named Dromio (Jeffrey Landman and Louis Pardo). The comedy ensues when the pair from Syracuse finds themselves in Ephesus, where the other master and servant reside. There, the wives of the Ephesian twins, Adriana (Katharine McDonough) and her servant Luce (Kelly Marie Pate), mistake the two strangers for their husbands. To complicate things, Adriana’s sister Lucianna (Carlin Castellano) and the Syracuse Antipholus fall in love. Will all end happily? (Whaddayou think?!) Also in the cast are Marisa Field, Dennis Kyle, William Martinez, Tracy Rowe Mutz, and Ashley Marie Samudio.

It’s fascinating how enjoyable MTW’s concerts have been, considering there are no sets, minimal costumes, and scripts in the actors’ hands when they speak dialogue (an Equity rule). The Boys from Syracuse is as delicious as an old-fashioned musical comedy can be. And the tickets are only 27 bucks, so there’s no excuse to miss this gem. And take note of the new location this season–the Beverly O’Neill Theatre on Ocean Blvd. at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

The Boys from Syracuse
Musical Theatre West
part of the Reiner Staged Reading Series
produced by Michael Betts and David Lamoureux
Beverly O’Neill Theatre at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center
300 East Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach
Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 7:00
for tickets (only 27 bucks!), call 562.856.1999 ext. 4 or visit MTW

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