Theater review by Raven Snook
Enter Laughing turns flop sweat sweet. This is the third time in 12 years that the York Theatre Company has mounted Stan Daniels and Joseph Stein’s once-unsuccessful musical, based on Carl Reiner's semiautobiographical novel about a horny Jewish nebbish with showbiz dreams in 1930s New York. Enter Laughing was adapted into a popular play and movie before its 1976 musical adaptation tanked on Broadway under the title So Long, 174th Street. But these days, when humor often has a bitter political aftertaste, it's comforting to slurp up the show’s Borscht Belt silliness, especially when the actors will do anything for a laugh. Heck, even the York's artistic director takes his pants off in a cameo for comedy's sake.
Some nostalgia for juvenile, pre-PC shenanigans is admittedly required to enjoy watching David Kolowitz (an affable Chris Dwan) attempt to juggle the ladies in his life, appease his overbearing mom (Alison Fraser) and perform in an excruciating melodrama under the mentorship of a never-was impresario (David Schramm, giving full Orson Welles) and his lusty daughter (Farah Alvin). Stein's gag-filled book and Daniels's klezmer-meets-musical-comedy score flirt with raunchiness, but it’s pretty innocent stuff. In this goofy world, an accidental brush against a woman's breast inspires nothing more than a jokey ballad, though there are a few concessions to modern sexual sensitivities. ("Undressing Girls with My Eyes" is now "Romancing Girls with My Eyes." Feh.)
As in the York’s previous productions, Stuart Ross directs with friskiness and flair, finding inventive ways to stage numbers in tight spaces on a barely-there set, including the rolling-office-chair duet "You" and Alvin's hilarious solo, "The Man I Can Love," in which she practically mounts the piano. Dwan isn't a farce of nature like his predecessor in the role, Josh Grisetti; he's certainly amusing, especially in the second act, but he doesn't steal every scene, which gives others a chance to shtick it out of the park. The showstopper is Schramm's hilariously dry "The Butler's Song," a list of David's imagined Hollywood conquests. If such Golden Age names as Sonja Henie and Anna May Wong don't ring a bell for you, the program has a handy glossary. If you do need such a guide, then Enter Laughing may not be your cup of glee. But this old soul exited with a smile.
York Theatre Company (Off Broadway). Music and lyrics by Stan Daniels. Book by Joseph Stein. Directed by Stuart Ross. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.
|Venue name:||York Theatre Company at St. Peter's Church|
619 Lexington Ave
|Cross street:||at 54th St|
|Transport:||Subway: E, M to Lexington Ave–53rd St; 6 to 51st St|