The happy ending to a financial crisis at the Chelsea Theater Company has meant the happiest possible beginning to the 1980-81 Chelsea semester. At the newly named Cheryl Crawford Theater, this is a musical holiday treat for all seasons.
The charmingly performed entertainment is adapted from the 1901 Clyde Fitch comedy that made a star of Ethel Barrymore. According to a program note, the adaptors intended it as "a nostalgic American confection." It is also, to mix a metaphor, a potpourri of melodic refrains from the 19th and early 20th centuries , including some of the best loved tunes from the American song bag.
The 1872 story is simple and endearing. The dashing Captain Jinks (joseph Kolinski) bets two fellow officers that he can start a flirtation with Madame Trentoni (Jeannine Taylor), the American Diva named for her native Trenton, who is returning home from European triumphs. Falling genuinely in love, Jinks tries to withdraw from the wager. The resultant misunderstanding occupy the remainder of the three acts and allow ample scope for all manner of period songs.
Composers range from Verdi and Stephen C. foster to von Flotow and von Tilzer. Lyricists include Frances Scott Key and Robert Burns. Plus, as they say, countless others. Cleverly integrated into the love story are long-time favorites like "Love's Old Sweet Song," "The Star-Spangled Banner" (with coloratura flourishes), "The Last Rose of Summer," "Beautiful Dreamer," "Silver Threads Among the Gold," "Auld Lang Syne," "Good-bye My Lady Love," "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines," to name a few. "Hijinks!" also comes up with such less familiar but fetching ditties as "Those Tassels on Her Boots," "Dad's a Millionare," "Poor Kitty Popcorn" (or "The Soldiers' Pet").
"Hijinks!" is performed with a winning blend of high spirits, humor, and stylish decorum by a vocally strong cast whose principles include -- besides the appealing Miss Taylor and Mr. Kolinski -- Michael Connally, as Trentoni's foster father and guide, Randall Easterbrook and Scott Ellis as the conniving fellow officers, and Marian Primont in the dual roles of Trentoni's companion and Jink's proud mother from the deep South.
Conductor-pianist-actor Michael O'Flaherty and his four fellow instrumentalists add immeasurably to the musical pleasures of the occasion. Larry Hayden's dances and musical staging are fresh yet period flavored. Sandro La Ferla (sets), Elizabeth P.