Helpless? Not this heroine!


Book by Walter and Jean Kerr
Lyrics by Walter Kerr, Joan Ford, & Jean Kerr
Music by Leroy Anderson
Musicals Tonight!
Directed and choreographed by Thomas Mills
Mainstage at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14 St.
Equity showcase (closes June 25)

Review by David Mackler 362-5620

When originally produced, Goldilocks was not a resounding flop, but it is unlikely to be found on anyone's list of favorite musicals. After it closed, its book, lyric and music authors never wrote another musical. Musicals Tonight!, which presents lesser-known musicals on a smaller scale than Encores, has performed an invaluable public service to musical aficionados by mounting a terrifically polished and quite enjoyable production of this show. They even went so far as to restore three numbers that were not in the Broadway production.

Debits first: the book by Walter and Jean Kerr is, well, slight. In 1913, Maggie, a musical-comedy star (Cathy Trien) who is about to get married and leave show business behind, is forced to honor a previously signed contract to appear in a one-reel silent picture. Max, the film's director (Michael McKenzie), is quite an operator, manipulating money and people with equal aplomb. There's Lois, the untalented ingenue (Jen Celene Little) who is obsessed with the director, and George, the rich bridegroom (James Patterson). The plot, as they say, is obvious from scene 2.

Now the credits: with material this trifling, high-voltage star power is needed to pull it off. And this was provided in spades. Brash without being brassy, Trien landed every joke with a winning smile and glowed as she sang such Elaine Stritch-identified songs as "The Beast in You" and the eleven o'clock number "I Never Know When." McKenzie was smoothly suave and arrogant, and his strong singing voice helped with the difficult task of making an impossible role sympathetic. (Max's manipulation of Maggie is a little distasteful, even though she manages to hold her own.) Patterson, also a strong singer, was kindly and clueless as George, and his gradual awakening to the charms of Lois was exactly right.

And Little was a revelation as Lois. Except in her character's singing debut (the atrociously performed "Pussy Foot"), Little was wisely directed to sing (and act) with her full and clear voice. A terrifically funny comedienne (her incompetence with an unwieldy costume was priceless), she was even better when she sang "My Last Spring," her song of disappointment. A superb song, and it was performed with power and subtlety. It was shocking to discover that this is one of the numbers not in the Broadway version.

The supporting cast was also very strong, and included such delights as Georgia Creighton, who scored a bullseye (even if she only visited the neighborhood of some notes) with the specialty song "If I Can't Take It With Me," another cut-on-Broadway number (what were they thinking?). Matthew Ellison and Jay Gould were terrific as Max's sidekicks, who help him extend the one-reeler into something to rival Intolerance.

Director (and choreographer) Thomas Mills has made the most of the main stage at the 14th Street Y, which is just the right size for the piece -- it would likely get lost and lose its charm in a larger venue. The simplicity of the production, and the fact that the cast holds their scripts, also keeps it in scale and allows it the nostalgic charm it wears so proudly. The uncredited scenery - flats and some trees - was elementary but very imaginative, as was the uncredited costuming, mostly basic-black street clothes, but which included a terrific bear suit. Lighting (Lita Riddock) helped the stage seem bigger than it was, and musical director Mark Hartman made his single piano sound like a cloud on which the music and singers could float.

This Goldilocks is only vaguely associated with the eponymous fairytale, songs like "Who's Been Sitting In My Chair" notwithstanding. And while the book lets the characters (and actors) down, the music is good, solid theater music from the "classic" period of the 1950s. This production was blessed with absolute silliness and wild fun in the filmmaking scenes, and a cast without flaw. Producer Mel Miller and Musicals Tonight! are to be commended for bringing it to light.

Also with Gene Jones, Erin Malloy, Kelly Mealia, Joy E.T. Ross, Marc Smollin, Chris Wisner.

Box Score:

Book: 1

Music/Lyrics: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 David Mackler