From 1920s Realism to 1980s Fantasy

THEATER: REVIEW

Grand Hotel Musical with book by Luther Davis, songs by Robert Wright and George Forrest, with additional music and lyrics by Maury Yeston. Based on Vicki Baum's ``Grand Hotel.'' Directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune. At the Martin Beck Theatre. `GRAND HOTEL'' transforms a 1920s realistic drama into an impressionistic musical fantasy with 1980s trimmings. Adapter Luther Davis has retained the principal characters and situations of the Vicki Baum novel and play, successfully adapted for Broadway in 1930 and for Hollywood in 1932, and again in 1945. The embellishments of the present version begin with the musicalization and continue with a spectacularly structuredal Tony Walton setting thatwhich reveals the whole stage and perches the orchestra on a proscenium-high terrace.

The opening scene is all bustle and to-do. With a trio of hotel telephone operators at their imaginary switchboards, the performers file forward, filling the stage with sound and movement. This is director-choreographer Tommy Tune's first tumultuous effect of the evening, and it sets the tone for the kaleidoscopic panorama to come. The ironic expos'e of glamor's seamy side creates the needed sense of urgency. Although crossed paths are not without a certain confusion at times, Mr. Tune and his collaborators manage to sort things out in a generally satisfactory manner by the end of their intermissionless, two-hour tale.

Principal among the guests who pass through the revolving doors and swirling situations of the Grand Hotel are world-weary ballerina Elisaveta Grushinskaya (Liliane Montevecchi) and Baron Von Gaigern (David Carroll), whose susceptibility outmatches his larcenous intentions.

The hotel register also features Otto Kringelein (Michael Jeter), a fatally ill bookkeeper determined to live it up before he dies; the fetching Flaemmschen (Jane Krakowski), a typist with dreams of Hollywood; and tycoon Preysing (Timothy Jerome), whose business ethics prove as frail as his morals. Besides this talented quintet, some of the more prominent players include John Wylie as a mordant medical colonel doubling as narrator, Karen Akers as the ballerina's devoted confidante, and Ben George as the baron's chauffeur and criminal accomplice.

The serviceable score by Robert Wright and George Forrest (with an assist from Maury Yeston) creates musical opportunities to suit the show's principals as well as the moods and needs of the complex plot. Of the solos and ensembles, none comes off better than Mr. Jeter's Charlestoning in ``We'll Take a Class Together,'' which had one recent audience cheering.

Mr. Walton's tracery setting is an intricate fretwork of columns, ladders, and atmospheric effects, enhanced by Jules Fisher's lighting. Santo Loquasto's costumes pay tribute to 1920s chic.

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