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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
PIPE DREAM
at City Center

SOME GEMS REVEALED
By JOANNE KAUFMAN


It can be said of the scripts and obscure scores unearthed by the excavators at Encores what is said of sex: When they are good they are very good. And when they are bad, well (as performed by stellar casts at City Center), they’re still pretty good.

A case in point is the first-rate production of Pipe Dream, (through Sunday), a 1955 Rodgers and Hammerstein misfire that came after the duo’s seemingly unstoppable gush of hits and before its last few sputters of success.

Sweet Thursday, the sequel to John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, is Pipe Dream‘s quite unfortunate source material. The less said the better about the wan libretto which involves a down-on-its-luck northern California seaside town, Snow White, many references to invertebrates, and some politically incorrect dialogue (“I don’t talk Mexican”).

Really, here’s all you need to know. Doc, (the superb Will Chase) a generous-spirited marine biologist who whiles away the time going out with the tide and going out with the local ladies of the evening, and Suzy (Laura Osnes, winsome as can be), a tough-talking vagrant, are attracted to each other at first sight. Nonetheless, they need two acts to get clear on the matter. Meanwhile, the residents of the neighborhood cathouse, presided over by Fauna, née Flora (Leslie Uggams), and the denizens of the flophouse mill about, blissfully happy in their work, unaccountably cheery in their indolence.

Never mind any of that. Chase and Osnes, with their fresh glorious caroling of song for song’s sake, are wonderful. Get those two a Broadway show and quick. In other hands, Hazel, (don’t ask) the resident malapropism-inclined dumb guy character, would grate. Stephen Wallem makes him a charmer. And Uggams, as a down-home madam with a heart of you-know-what, is a welcome presence even if she does sometimes struggle with the demands of the songs.

About those songs: Many, it’s true, are strictly so-so, echoes of far better Rodgers and Hammerstein, but Rob Berman's always impeccable musical direction and Kelli Barclay's deft choreography even give the clunkers a pass. And what a treat to get acquainted – or reacquainted – with the plaintive, wistful balled “Everybody’s Got a Home but Me,” “The Man I Used to Be,” “The Next Time It Happens,” and the score’s best known ballad “All at Once You Love Her.” The sterling cast gives every note the best send-off possible.

 


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