'Jerry's Girls' places bright talents in a drab, ill-constructed package

Carol Channing has an amazing ability to snare laughs simply by walking on stage in a hat as large as a television set and batting her doll-like eyes. Leslie Uggams has a voice smooth enough to pour.

Andrea McArdle has finally grown up from having been the original ''Annie,'' and has the voice to prove it.

Jerry Herman is one of our more celebrated composer/lyricists who stocked the American musical theater with his award-studded hits, including ''Mame,'' ''Hello Dolly,'' and ''La Cage Aux Folles.''

So given all this, why isn't ''Jerry's Girls'' any better than it is?

Sure it's got all those great songs - ''If He Walked Into My Life,'' ''Put on Your Sunday Clothes,'' and ''I Am What I Am.'' And, sure, there's a big black staircase for all sorts of glittering entrances.

But that isn't enough. What ''Jerry's Girls'' lacks and desperately needs is pacing, originality, and professional polish. Between the sequined gowns, Channing's muggings, and Herman's tunes - which admittedly may be enough to satisfy some - is a lot of dead-air time. The revue simply doesn't have the look and sparkle of a show that is supposedly Broadway-bound.

Not only is the Hal Tine set tired-looking (the show has been on the road since March) and the Sharon Halley choreography uninspired - with the exception of one snappy jazz number ''That's How Young I Feel'' - but Larry Alford's direction has given the show a fragmented, scattered feel. While one doesn't expect a narrative line in a revue based upon female musical comedy characters, one can insist upon cohesion and unity of vision.

As it is, ''Jerry's Girls'' is an uneven collection of musical sketches - some comic, some heart-rending ballads. Some just plain don't work. When the show is hitting the mark - lame-clad Uggams singing ''I Won't Send Roses'' and ''If He Walked Into My Life'' and Channing yukking it up in a spoof of Marlene Dietrich or belting out ''Before the Parade Passes By'' - it's a delight. Even McArdle, who as yet lacks a real star presence, carries off her numbers fairly admirably.

Still, one couldn't help wishing all that talent had better packaging.

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