KPBS AIRDATE: July 30, 2004
Theater is a gamble. Consider “Breaking Legs” and “Lucky Duck.” The 1989 comedy is about the problems inherent in mounting a new play. The world premiere musical is the living, breathing embodiment of those challenges.
“Lucky Duck” comes to the Old Globe with an impressive pedigree and a five-year history of development. The concept, book and lyrics are by Bill Russell, who was Tony nominated for his work on the quirky, Siamese-twinned “Side Show” and the outrageous drag musical, “Pageant.” The book collaborator is Jeffrey Hatcher, several of whose plays have been mounted at the Globe, including “Compleat Female Stage Beauty,” soon to be a movie. The score is by Henry Krieger, composer of “Side Show” and “Dreamgirls.” And the director is last year’s “Urinetown” Tony-winner, John Rando. So what happened? Though it’s energetic, engaging and amusing at times, the whole venture seems misconceived. The plot, inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “The Ugly Duckling,” is a convoluted hodgepodge. Plus, we already have a musical based on this story — “Honk!” — which won an Olivier Award in London. The cast of “Lucky Duck” is skilled but not stellar, especially vocally. The central character is Serena, the budding swan and would-be superstar.
SONG: “Average, Simple, Mega Superstar”
The role should be a star-maker, but though Marcy Harriell is adorably irresistible, she isn’t a megawatt, knock-you-outta-your-seat singer. Behind her, the musical accompaniment sounds distant and synthesized. But the costumes are brilliant. Unfortunately, you can’t sing the outfits, and you can’t bank ’em, either. Obviously, a great deal of time, money, effort and talent went into this show. But it’s too unfocused, makes little point and after awhile, the relentless poultry puns leave egg on everyone’s face.
But up at North Coast Rep, Wise Guys take wing in “Breaking Legs.” Fuggeddaboudit. This is the real linguine…. Noo Yawk Mafiosi who like risky business. So Da Boys decide to bankroll a play on Broadway. Poor hapless Terence, the English professor/playwright, gets more than he bargained for…. Backers with money, muscle — and a hot, spicy girl, in the bargain. In Marty Burnett’s spot-on restaurant setting, and under Geoffrey Sherman’s light, crisp direction, the game, gavon cast gets it exactly right — especially Robert Grossman as the dyspeptic Don, Von Schauer as the anxious restaurateur and Jennifer Eve Kraus as the teased-hair, street-smart, stiletto-heeled bachelorette, who, like her many Italian ‘uncles,’ knows what she wants and just how to get it. She chills the champagne in the kitchen, while they ice Frankie in the alley. A frothy but piquant little play that delights with its authenticity, even if its story setup is suspect. But, Badabing! North Coast Rep has a summer hit on its hands… while the Globe’s lightweight antidote to Shakespeare cries fowl.
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.