Lady, Be Good!
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February 5, 2015
They sure don’t write them like they used to, and perhaps that’s all right. You might think so too after seeing the Encores! production of George and Ira Gershwin’s 1924 musical Lady, Be Good! at New York City Center. That’s not to say the show isn’t delightful for many reasons, but a compelling script isn’t one of them. Written as a star vehicle for sibling dance sensations Fred and Adele Astaire, Lady, Be Good! was the first collaboration between the Gershwins to make it to Broadway. George Gershwin’s music is gorgeous and unforgettable; Ira Gershwin’s lyrics are witty and urbane; but the book (by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson) for this musical comedy is mostly funny for its questionable taste and ludicrous contrivance. It begins with brother-and-sister dance team Dick (Danny Gardner) and Susie Trevor (Patti Murin) on the skids, evicted from their apartment for not paying rent. They’re so broke that the only way they can eat is by donning their eveningwear and pilfering hors d’oeuvres from fabulous Gold Coast soirees.READ THE REVIEW
February 5, 2015
Sometimes — and I mean this in a good way — the Encores! series at City Center seems like the musical equivalent of A Night at the Museum, making the dinosaurs dance. That’s certainly the case with its delightful 22nd-season opener, Lady, Be Good!, the 1924 comedy that featured George and Ira Gershwin’s debut score on Broadway. (Working alone or as a team, the brothers had contributed individual songs to shows since 1918.) True, the bones of Lady, Be Good! are so creaky, they must be held up with strings, but the mounting, and the superb restoration where needed, let you see something fascinating that would hardly be visible otherwise: how the American musical grew into itself. Were it not for that, it’s hard to argue that a relic like Lady, Be Good! would be worth the enormous effort Encores! put into it, including a nearly complete new orchestration and the hiring of Tommy Tune out of semi-retirement to dance two numbers. The original book, by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson, only barely clears the low bar for cogency set by operetta and vaudeville, the forebear genres from which our musical theater evolved. The story is so threadbare that even Adele Astaire, who starred in the original with her brother, Fred, called it “tacky” and “weak.”READ THE REVIEW
February 5, 2015
Sporting a sleek fire-engine red suit, Tommy Tune appears suddenly, like an exotic bird just flown in from the tropics to brighten our frigid winter, in Lady, Be Good!, the George and Ira Gershwin musical that’s the first production of the City Center Encores! season. A musical theater veteran with nine Tony awards to his name, Mr. Tune has been absent from New York theater stages for at least a decade. Amazingly trim and towering at 75, he still has the radiance of a performer who gathers warmth from the spotlight. And spreads it, too. Although he’s no longer the bravura tap dancer of his prime, when those long limbs spring into motion in the jaunty “Fascinating Rhythm,” he remains a wonder to watch. Music ripples through his body as naturally as a breeze stirring leaves on a tree, and you suddenly feel airborne yourself. That magical feeling comes rarely in this likable but only intermittently effervescent revival of the 1924 musical, which was the first big Broadway hit for the Gershwins and added luster to the careers of its stars, Fred and Adele Astaire. It dates from a startlingly fertile period for George Gershwin, who composed and began performing Rhapsody in Blue earlier that year and opened another musical in London, Primrose, just a few months before Lady, Be Good! burst into view.READ THE REVIEW