Would you buy a Broadway musical from this man?
After seeing Moore in action in the role of Lawrence Jameson, the smooth-tongued confidence man posing as a deposed prince on the French Riviera, my answer is: Yes, I think I would.
Strong casting makes all the difference in this amiable musical, which is more memorable for its slick comic shenanigans and clever contemporary lyrics than for the music. (David Yazbek of “Full Monty” fame wrote the music and lyrics; Jeffrey Lane adapted the book from the 1988 movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin.) Moore is a natural in the role of Jameson, who woos wealthy women at a small French seaside town. He’s dashing without becoming a caricature of suave. In his smooth hands, women ply him with cash and jewels for the beleaguered “freedom fighters” in his conveniently unnamed tiny country.
Two other Good Company veterans complete a first-rate leading comic trio. The hard-working Peter Allwine puts an amusingly scuzzy sheen on Freddy “Buzz” Benson, a small-time huckster who shows up in town and is entranced by Jameson’s sophisticated ways. And Danielle Jorn is a gem as an American “soap queen” who promptly becomes a target of both men’s scamming ways — and eventually their affections, too.
The show continues at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater through May 20.
Yazbek doesn’t grace us much in the way of memorable music in this show, but his lyrics can be a scream. (You know you aren’t at “The Sound of Music” when a Xanax reference gets tossed in — and then there’s that rhyming of “Oklahoma” with “melanoma.”)
Director Elizabeth Fiester and choreographer Kaye Migaki dutifully trot out the expected production numbers, from a Western-themed extravaganza (keyed to one of Jameson’s more ardent admirers, a big-voiced gal named Jolene Oakes, played by a delightful Chelsea Harper) to the good-natured “Here I Am,” when Jorn’s soap queen, named Christine Colgate, makes her grand entrance late in the first act. The big numbers are fun enough, but they also seem a little generic and dutiful. Even when I saw “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” on Broadway, I found myself waiting for the energetic choreography to be over and the comic storyline to resume.
Indeed, the strength of this show is in the rapport between the leading characters. Moore and Allwine remind me of a couple of cats — one snooty and the other practically feral — forced to share the same litter box. As they circle and swipe, eventually coming to terms with sharing the same territory, there’s a sharp, feline grace to their interactions. Both actors get good standout moments: Allwine has big fun in the obnoxious number “Great Big Stuff,” especially when he starts exploding in wild kicks, and Moore — whose speak-sing vocals are more than adequate for the role — has a chance to get all sentimental in “Love Sneaks In.”
And both combine to great comic effect in the show-stopping “All About Ruprecht,” when Allwine gets carte blanche to play downright disgusting.
The comic chemistry is increased by an amusing subplot involving a wealthy widow (an amiable Jacquie Broach) who gets entangled with a duplicitous police inspector (Jacob Carrillo, displaying great comic timing).
It’s a complicated show with lots of settings, and the design seems a little stripped-down and bare compared to other GCP productions. David Pierce’s set and Evan Commins’ lighting evoke nicely evoke the colors and sensibility of the French seaside (though a couple of the set pieces seem more rickety than opulent). Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costumes punch up the ambiance.
The key to setting the mood, however, is in the leading performances. Would I buy a Broadway musical from Gordon Moore? Just tell me who I should make the check out to.