Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: AUGUST 6, 2010
Local theaters rolled the dice and came up with lucky 7 – a revival of “The Seven Year Itch” and a world premiere of “Robin and the 7 Hoods.” Forget the old films and their iconic stars. There may be a whiff of Sinatra here, an essence of Marilyn, Dino or Sammy there. But these are very different animals from the movies that bear their names. “The Seven Year Itch” was, in fact, watered down by the censors from the original George Axelrod play. And “The 7 Hoods” are now singers and dancers in a Broadway-bound musical.
Once again, the Old Globe is the launching pad for a big nostalgic hit — superbly directed and choreographed by former San Diegan Casey Nicholaw and sleekly designed by UCSD alum and Sledgehammer Theatre co-founder Robert Brill. Roughly based on the Robin Hood myth, re-set in the swingin ’ ‘60s, the new show is big, brash and slick, filled with wisecracks written by Rupert Holmes that lead into fabulous songs by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. The dancing is terrific, especially on the guy-side. The central performances are good but not great; there’s no charismatic standout in this story of two couples that are seriously reminiscent of the duos in “Guys and Dolls”: a charming gangster who’s reformed by an honest woman, and a dance-hall girl who can’t get her long-term beau to commit. The real star of the show is the music, and the killer arrangements and orchestrations, robustly played by a dozen brassy instruments.
The story isn’t rock-solid or rocket science, but it works fine, better than most jukebox musicals. Mostly, the minimal dialogue serves as intro to 20 super songs, including “All the Way” and “Call Me Irresponsible.” The voices are pleasant, if not stellar, so cast changes are likely before the show hits the Great White Way . But this is another great opportunity for San Diegans to say ‘I saw it here first.’
And I bet you haven’t seen “The Seven Year Itch” around these parts any time in the recent past. The 1952 play concerned a hot New York summer and a fantasizing, philandering husband who takes advantage of his wife’s seasonal absence at the shore. That was too spicy and salacious for film, so the movie was considerably tamed, even if it did contain Marilyn Monroe’s famous subway-grate scene, with the billowing white dress.
To jump-start its 10th season, New Village Arts goes for the risqué original, and under the sharp, sassy direction of Amanda Sitton , scores a palpable hit. Daren Scott is marvelous as the nerdy neurotic with the overactive imagination, and Jacquie Wilke is delightful as the upstairs neighbor who turns his head – and turns his world upside down.
So take a little trip back in time… sin, sex and songs never go out of style.
“The Seven Year Itch” runs through August 22, at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad .
“Robin and the Seven Hoods” has already been extended, through August 29, at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park .
©2010 PAT LAUNER