How lucky we are that Off-Broadway's York Theatre Company has brought back its hit fall production of Enter Laughing: The Musical, a polished rehaul of the 1974 flop Broadway musical So Long, 174th Street.
Based directly on Carl Reiner's 1958 semi-autobiographical memoir that became a play and film, Enter Laughing is the coming-of-age saga of David Kolowitz, a 17-year-old Jewish male from a lower-middle class Bronx family during the Depression.
While his overbearing mother expects him to be a pharmacist, David yearns to become a bona fide actor. In his opening song, he imagines John Barrymore, the Pope and Eleanor Roosevelt begging for his autograph.
26-year-old Josh Grisetti perfectly captures the youth, awkwardness and dreamy innocence of dreamer David Kolowitz while gleefully indulging in the show's farcical spirit. His unforgettably ridiculous rendition of David's stage debut is truly the best worst performance you've ever seen.
Bob Dishy lacks the vocal chops of 86-year-old George S. Irving, who both originated the role of alcoholic acting teacher Harrison Marlowe in the original Broadway production and this Off-Broadway revival. Still, his deadpan reactions to Grisetti's clownish antics are spot on.
Quite a few changes have been made since the fall. While much of the ensemble choreography has been cleaned up and set pieces have been added (including a brightly lit "Kolowitz&rdquo sign inspired by "Gypsy&rdquo), one of the cutest songs, "I'm Undressing Girls with My Eyes,&rdquo has been mercilessly cut.
Stan Daniels' songs are cute, character-driven and catchy, especially the showstopper "Butler's Song&rdquo ("He's screwing Dolores Del Rio&hellip&rdquo). Though we'd prefer to hear the score played by a bigger orchestra than merely three musicians, this remains a fairly large production for a theater located in a church basement.
Stuart Ross's lively production, which brims with juvenile sex humor and physical slapstick, is thoroughly hilarious while also sincerely warm-hearted. Whether or not you've seen it already, get thee to the York Theatre immediately.
York Theatre Company, 619 Lexington Ave, 212-935-5820, $20-67. Mon, Wed-Fri 8pm, Sat 3 & 8pm, Sun 3pm. Thru Mar 8.