The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 20, 1989 - Page 9
BY JAY PEKALA
"Life is Like a Train" for the four
lMurgundy-clad porters who wryly
sing and tap dance the merry madri-
gal from On the Twentieth Century.
But the Musical Theatre Program's
,revue of works by Cy Coleman ti-
*;tled If My Friends Could See Me
Now is more like a low-flying plane.
once off the ground, the vehicle re-
mains in constant danger of losing
altitude, veering off course, or being
shot down by the band.
Director Brent Wagner's tribute
to Coleman invites us to watch the
expansive backstage of the Power
Center before the nonexistent curtain
"goes up." The theater gently pulses
as technicians and actors drift unself-
consciously in and out of view ar-
ranging last minute details. Instru-
ments from the orchestra execute an-
ticipatory phrases which every so
often ring familiar. Then, through
the murmur, we hear the stage man-
ager calling the first cues. The actors
take their places behind a number of
flat, wheeled cutouts, and lights dim.
The show begins, but somehow
tbe feeling of the opening company
iumbers "One Brick at a Time" and
"Hey Look Me Over" is anticlimac-
tic compared with the hushed ex-
cjtement that pervaded backstage.
Tim Millett's routine choreography
Iacks the panache to motivate the
talented cast and to allow the show
tp become totally airborne from the
start. As well, designer Vincent
Scassellati's casual clothing in ma-
genta and seafoam green doesn't
make quite the right impression.
Oddly enough, it is in the second
act that we get the splashy company
number, "On the Twentieth Cen-
tury" that would have kicked the
evening off with a bang. Had it only
been first! In it, a bustling train sta-
tion vibrates with 1930s nostalgia.
Trendy socialites sport sleek Vogue
fashions, a railroad car belches steam
as passengers cross red carpeted
thresholds, and the polished har-
monies highlight the level of qual-
ity that the students are capable of.
If My Friends Could See Me
Now traces Cy Coleman's jazz and
Broadway careers, and the numbers
are given different settings from
which to build. We visit cocktail
lounges, a television studio, a li-
brary, a circus. Although the takes a
while to get off the runway, the ride
is a pleasant one. The first truly im-
pressive number is the "Firefly" Ball
which recreates a 1950s dance con-
test. Competing couples humor-
ously cha-cha, waltz, tango, jitter-
bug, and rock 'n' roll as judges roam
the floor to search for a winner.
Performances on the whole are
quite admirable. The obstacle that
seems to hinder some of the num-
bers is the band, comprised of the
University Jazz Ensemble. They
sound wonderful in their own right,
but they often get carrried away and
drown out the performers. In the
closing two numbers, the entire cho-
rus is buried by the band's energy
Few performances are clearly ex-
ceptional. As a sailor at sea, posed
gently at the ship's rail, Todd Mc-
Mullen's haunting tenor serenely
fills the house with a warm reminis-
cence of his "Angelina." Later in a
clear pool of light, Clare Stollak's
lovely soprano voice muses about
her love in "It Amazes Me." Dressed
in a deep wine-colored velvet gown,
she remains motionless, letting the
song gracefully take flight.
One lengthy segment, actually
half of the first act, incorporates a
television projection on a giant
screen. Jonathan Hammond and
Elizabeth Richmond host a 1964
variety show and we become its
studio audience prompted by the
flashing "applause" signs. A sexy,
come-hither Richmond performing
"I've Got Your Number" with four
male dancers looks just as you
would imagine a 1960s era
production number with such stars
as Ann Margaret or Barbra Streisand.
Richmond Handles the jazzy Cy
Coleman superbly. Following this
song, we are off to the library where
six studious young men dream about
their own "Real Live Girls." In a
swirl of mist, their six maidens in
flowing chiffon materialize. The
couples dance under wizard Richard
Nelson's warm pink lighting for a
moment before the dream becomes
ironic reality, and we find the six
men embarrassedly dancing with
Wagner's revue is written in a
light, playful tone that sometimes is
confusingly parodying. In the night-
If My Friends Could See Me Now -A Cy Coleman Revue showcases many easily recognized Coleman songs
perfomed largely by University undergraduates.
club settings, it is difficult to figure
if the singers are supposed to be
good or intentionally bad. The Frank
Sinatra standard "The Best is Yet to
Come" glitters and shimmers its
way into Las Vegas heaven, only
singer Hunter Foster isn't as tacky
The last quarter of the show, the
disappointment of the evening, fea-
tures the musical Barnum. In the
role of legendary showman P.T.
Barnum, Wagner has cast James
Roggenbeck who looks more like a
dark haired Thomas Jefferson in
sweatpants than the 19th century
figure. Roggenbeck also has diffi-
culty energizing his performance of
the role. He lacks the unabashed
charisma that could thread the songs
with better vitality. The major prob-
lem is that this section doesn't have
zing. It could be that the orchestra-
tion lacks a big-top sparkle, or that
perhaps the performers are a bit tired
by this time, or that a couple of the
songs are staged too far back, or that
the band is drowning out the singers.
Whatever the reason, a brighter end-
ing, and beginning for that matter,
would serve to showcase everyone's
talent in a neater package.
IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME
NOW is playing through Sunday at
the Power Center.
Continued from page 8
the album's final track, "I'm Sorry
Baby (I Want You in My Life)." The
song, complete with trumpet and
string section, can best be likened to
the finale from an off-off-Broadway
musical, and not a very good one at
Fragile as a kitten
strong as an ox
slow as a turtle
and sly as afox.
I cut you like butter with a knife
I'm sorry baby I want you in my
Butter with a knife? C'mon!
Then there is the feminist anthem
"As Soon as the Sun Goes Down,"
where Holland croons, "Maybe
someday I'll get up the nerve/ to go
out and get what I really deserve."
Not exactly "I am woman and I am
Pathetic lyrics aside, however,
Holland's subtle twang adds a much-
needed edge to the album and makes
songs such as "There's a Spy (in the
House of Love)" not only bearable,
but good. But Animal Logic's kicker
is the second side's first track, "I
Still Feel For You." Yes, it's an-
other love song but this one is no
ballad. Here, the band works up the
energy which Copeland and Clarke
have proved so capable of many
times before, and this is really the
album's saving grace.
Unfortunately, Copeland and
Clarke's sizzling coda to this tune
makes me wonder how a fusion al-
bum featuring the two geniuses sans
vocalist would sound. The answer I
came up with is hot, and most defi-
nitely better than Animal Logic.
SCREENS A NIGHT OF NEW
MOVIES AND MUSIC
MARY STUART MASTERSON KEVIN DILLON
These three aren't animals - actually, they're really nice people. Their music is pretty good too. The guy on the
right's dad used to work for the C.I.A.
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