March 19, 2015

Men in weathered woolens and suspenders roister vigorously around the stage, hungry for booze, gold and women — not necessarily in that order — in the jovial production of “Paint Your Wagon” being presented as part of the City Center Encores! series. There’s but a single gal in the gold-mining encampment where the show takes place, at least until the end of the first act, when a stagecoach brings a bevy of working (and dancing) girls to town and the boys throw out a lusty cheer. One of the founding goals of the Encores! series is panning for gold, if you will, in the history of the musical theater. So it’s perhaps surprising that the series has taken so long to bring back “Paint Your Wagon,” the Lerner and Loewe musical set during the California gold rush. True, the show doesn’t qualify as a big nugget of musical-theater perfection. Then again, it doesn’t meet the criterion of obscurity. It had a respectable run in 1951 of nearly 300 performances, but Lerner and Loewe’s best-known musicals, the prior “Brigadoon” along with “Camelot” and the landmark “My Fair Lady,” are all much better known and loved, and “Paint Your Wagon” has never been revived on Broadway. The dismal movie version, which scrambled the score and story and starred a singing (barely) Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, probably didn’t help matters. Watch it at your peril.