Goodspeed Opera's old-fashioned jewel -- and a new Williams drama; 'The Five O'Clock' girl: rage of the 1927 season
East Haddam, Conn. — It is rare when the Goodspeed Opera House revives one of its revivals, but if the show in question is "The Five O'Clock Girl," it is a more-than-welcome return visit.
The show had been one of the rages of the 1927 Broadway season, but that season also included such smashing shows as "Good News," "Hit the Deck," "Funny Face," "A Connecticut Yankee," and the legendary "Show Boat." It is probably no wonder that "Five O'Clock Girl," with its frilly plot of the telephone romance of a dry-cleaner with one of New York's most eligible socialite bachelors, would not have been remembered.
But when one hears songs like "Thinking of You," or "Up in the Clouds," or "Nevertheless," it does seem odd that the show would have gone into such total oblivion when others of not particularly greater merit survived.
The Guy Bolton-Fred Thompson book has snap, wit, and corn in equal amounts -- just the sort of nonsense that appealled to theater-goers of that era -- and sometimes today. Harry Ruby had a gift for the long melodic line, and several of these songs wrap the Bert Kalmar lyrics in long melodic phrases that stretch, taffylike, into seemingly endless glides and swoops of beguiling tune.
The Goodspeed production was charming the last time around because the cast worked so well together. And though I saw the show opening day and many wrinkles are now undoubtedly ironed out, this revival had casting problems. The biggest name in the show is Hildegarde, and clearly, shows of this kind are not second nature to her. She did not really settle into the character of Mme. Irene, a few moments at her piano in the Kit Kat Club scene aside. By now, however, I'm sure she's found found her sea legs, her vim, and her vigor.
Suzanne Sloan seemed unable to make heroine Patricia Brown at once believably simple and unbelievably elegant. If Roger Rathburn's physical presence was just right for Gerald Brooks, his vocal presence proved considerably less than the role demands. ted Pugh's gentle style and excellent comic timing brought much fun to the role of Hudgins. Pat Stanley had her moments as Susan Snow, and Dee Hoty stole the show in spectacular fashion as the abrasive Cora Wainwright.
Sue Lawless's direction lacked a certain edge, but the stodginess will doubtless already have disappeared. Dan Siretta's choreography lacked the accustomed inventiveness to justify the copious stretches his work was allotted. Only the tap number "Dancing the Devil Away," in which Barry Preston lit up the stage, ardently accompanied by the Goodspeed dancers, found the Siretta magic working at peak condition.
The company travels to Philadelphia for a few weeks right after the run here.