Monday, October 27, 2003

Love of Mike (Cleveland Play House)

'LOVE OF MIKE' at CPH--performers outclass material

Want to produce a musical review? The songs are usually not the problem...they are readily available unless you are writing an all original score. You pick a theme, decide on what songs to do, and put them in an order based on the effect you are trying to achieve. Sounds easy? Nope! Musical reviews are hard devices to conceive. More miss than hit.

William Hoffman, the conceiver of ‘FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE’ now being staged in the Cleveland Play House Club, decided to do a musical celebration of a vaudeville life. He selected about 20 songs and conceived it as a tribute to Mike. He assembled a very talented cast, rehearsed the materials, and invited audiences to attend.

Audiences will hear some wonderful songs like “The Bowery,” “The Streets of New York,” and “Hard Hearted Hanna.”

Unfortunately, the evening doesn’t work very well. Much of the evening seemed forced. The script is so weak that the performers had to force-feed the notions to the audience, material which they didn’t appear to have much belief in. In addition, rehearsal time was obviously limited and the performers had to learn a lot of patter and unfamiliar songs such as “I’m Looking for Daddy Long Legs,” “Cleaning and Dyeing,” and “The German 5th.” (Yep, I’m not making these up.) Because of this there were lyric and line problems.

The cast, Greg Violand, Maryann Nagel, Kevin Joseph Kelly and Charles Eversole are all solid performers. Violand’s “That’s the Reason Noo I Wear a Kilt” is delightful. His voice soars in “I Belong to Glasgow.” Nagel and Violand are wonderful in “Yiddisha Nightingale” though at times Irish seems to creep into their Yiddish patter. The company does a rousing “Alabamy Bound” and “Are You From Dixie?” Kelly‘s “Oh What a Gal” was fun. Eversole plays the piano with pizazz.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: This is a very talented group of performers. I wish they had just stood and sung and forgotten about Hoffman’s attempt at creating a hat tree on which to hang the material. Shticks like “Cleaning and Dyeing” were close to embarrassing and the “surprise” ending was not clever. GO HEAR THE VOICES.