Like an air-filled balloon, Rodgers and Hart's 1938 musical fantasy I Married an Angel needs constant effort to stay afloat. The creaky book, which may have passed for smart entertainment 60 years ago, is a a rather silly attempt at "mittle european" froth that needs a first-rate production to be viable today.
In Budapest in the late 1930s, Count Willy Palaffi, head of the Palaffi bank, swears to marry no one but an angel, and of course, almost instantaneously one flies into his room, wings and all. They marry, but her truth-telling ways anger his wealthy depositors and cause a run on the bank. Willy's sister, the daffy Countess Palaffi, indoctrinates the angel into the ways of this world, and all ends happily, right on cue.
Musicals Tonight!'s concert production, produced with admirable dedication by the fearlessly charming Mel Miller and under the capable direction of Thomas Mills, was only partially successful in recreating the magic of late-30s Broadway. With very little in the way of sets, costumes, and lighting, and almost no choreography (a shame, since the original production, choreographed by George Balanchine, was a heavy dance show - really Mr. Miller, you must take these needs into consideration when you choose your repertory!), the evening came to life only fitfully, and even then only by the extraordinary efforts of the vivacious cast and their glorious voices. (Kudos to Musical Director Mark Hartman.)
Brad Little was superb as Palaffi, and his rendition of the immortal ballad "Spring is Here" was sublime. Nanne Puritz, as the angel of the title, was a perfect match for him, her simple, pure performance making love at first sight the only option for everyone involved, especially the audience. Kathy Fitzgerald played the Countess Palaffi with a wryly impish sparkle, and was mainly responsible for whatever witty sophistication the evening possessed. Funny, solid support was lent by Kenny Morris and Larry Raben, and in a very small role, Lois Saunders impressed with her beautifully regal grace.
Whenever this gifted cast opened their mouths to sing, I Married an Angel soared to the heavens and stayed delicately afloat - at least until the book brought it crashing back to earth with a jolting thud. A pale reminder of the snap and fizz that used to be the staple of Broadway musical comedy, at least this production delivered where it counted: it WAS musical, and in a concert version, perhaps that's what counts the most.
(Also featuring: Courtney Blythe, Al Gillespie, Andrew Gitzy, Richard Grayson, Jayne Ackly Lynch, Andrea Quinn, Ritta Rehn, Jennifer Scheer, and Stacy Lee Tilton. Lighting by Shuhei Seo.)
Writing: Book: 1 Music: 2 Lyrics: 2
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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita