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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
BAJOUR
at the York Theater Company (at St.Peter's)

MORE THAN A CON
By David Lefkowitz

  Teri Ralston

Remember when musicals could be merely pretty good? They didn't have to be blockbusters or critics' darlings to garner a respectable New York run. Audiences came for a good time and, to varying degrees, that's what they got.

Currently, Curtains is taking a run at that type of moderate Broadway success, but for 232 nights in 1964, audiences cued up for a light musical comedy about gypsies: Bajour penned by Walter Marks and librettist Ernest Kinoy. Granted, some of those theatergoers were there to see Chita Rivera, but had the songs not been cute, the story not amusing, and the whole piece not fitted out with the kind of plot/subplot, ingénue/diva, ensemble-identity-song/charm-song/love-song/comedy-song elements so common to musical theater of that era, audiences would've gone home feeling like their pockets had been picked.

(That said, on gallery walls in the waiting area of the York Theater, where Bajour is briefly being revived as a dressed-down, on-book Musical in Mufti, two-fer stubs for the original production are shown to boast a top ticket - undiscounted - of nine dollars and change, with cheap seats halved to about three bucks. Is it any wonder the middle class once made theatergoing a regular habit?)

Bajour follows plucky NYU sociology student Emily (sprightly and sprite-like (Angel Desai) as she forces a police detective (Lee Rosen) to grant her access to a band of gypsies that have once again circulated to the old neighborhood. She wants to live with them and study their ways; he wants to bust them. When Emily's naïve and over-protective mother (Teri Ralston) visits the tribe to see how her daughter's faring, mom becomes the perfect mark for Anyanka (Deone Zanotto) to pull off "the big bajour" - the big-time swindle.

Nothing earth-shaking here, but that's the point. We get a sweet love story for Emily and the cop, a sexier love story for Anyanka and the man she has to (but also wants to) marry (Nicholas Rodriquez), a comedy duet for the leaders of both gypsy tribes (Thom Christopher and Don Mayo), a couple of showcase numbers for Anyanka, and a few sly plot twists on the way to an all-round happy ending.

The original Bajour also offered undoubted pluses from an array of Freddy Wittop's costumes swirling to Peter Gennaro's Tony-nominated choreography, which led New York Times critic Howard Taubman to praise the show's "scenic razzle-dazzle." A Musical in Mufti production can't rely on such trappings, however, so audiences at the York have only the qualities of the book and music and the personalities of the players to go on. Regarding the former, Bajour has more than enough cute jokes and lyrical felicities to keep crowds smiling, as well as clever songs like Emily's "Where is the Tribe for Me?" and her "Words Words Words" duet with policeman Lou, and rousing numbers like Anyanka's "Mean" and the ensemble's "Soon."

With only 30 hours of rehearsal, a certain raggediness is to be expected, but Deone Zanotto proves opening-night ready as Anyanka She looks the part, sings with prettiness and zest (though not always with accent intact), and has a smoky presence that hints at the star quality one imagines Chita must have brought to the role decades ago. Costar Nicholas Rodriguez is darkly handsome and believable as her chosen husband-to-be, while Don Mayo relishes his role as the head gyspy from (and named) Newark. Veteran actress Teri Ralston begins tentatively but warms up to the comedy as Emily's mom, and Erick Devine makes an appealingly earnest young detective.

The only disaster here - and one that leaves a hole at the

 


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