Have a Heart has not been seen in any form for 87 years. Musicals Tonight uncovered the dust and presented an overdue revival of one of P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome Kern's first musicals. The show, while not so good as Wodehouse and Kern's last musicals (Anything Goes and Show Boat, respectively), has its merits and has some seminal aspects that would grow into those classic masterpieces.
The plot of Have a Heart follows four couples. The main couple is Ruddy (Christopher Guilmet) and Peggy (Marni Raab), a divorced couple still in love. Ruddy must win Peggy back and overcome many obstacles to convince her he still loves her. The second primary couple is Jeff (James Patterson) and Jane (Ellie Mooney); they fall in love at first sight. Next, there are the rehabilitated pickpockets, Henry (Jon Peterson) and Lizzie (Martina Vidmar). Finally, there is the old couple, Peggy's aunt (Evelyn Page) and uncle (Robert Sevra) who are adamantly against Ruddy and Peggy's reunion.
P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton's book is actually quite succinct and at times very amusing. As adapted for Musicals Tonight! by Mel Miller, there is never excess dialog between songs. The jokes, although dated at times, are still well-written. Jerome Kern's score, while no match for Show Boat, is charming and heartfelt. There are moments of brilliance occasionally, but most of the score is pleasant yet ephemeral. Napoleon was a cute comedy song, and And I Am All Alone was a beautiful ballad.
The cast, as always with Musicals Tonight!, was solid. There was no lack of talent on stage. Each cast members had his/her moment to shine and show off his/her range. There was not really any standout performer, though it was a tight-knit ensemble altogether, and the direction and choreography, by Thomas Mills, kept the pacing and energy up.
Where else can you see an almost-90-year-old musical? The show might not have been incredible, but overall, the production certainly had a heart.
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Copyright 2004 Seth Bisen-Hersh