Musical about Teddy Roosevelt takes its beat from Sousa tunes

Teddy and Alice Musical comedy with music by John Philip Sousa, book by Jerome Alden, lyrics by Hal Hackady, adaptations and original music by Richard Kapp. Artistic consultant: Alan Jay Lerner. Directed by John Driver. Choreography by Donald Saddler. Starring Len Cariou. Matching the upbeat music of John Philip Sousa to a tale about rambunctious Teddy Roosevelt and his oldest daughter proves a happy - all right, a bully - combination in ``Teddy and Alice,'' at the Minskoff Theatre. Sporting a mustache and the familiar pince-nez, Len Cariou breezes through the role of the 26th President with enough charm, bustle, and high spirits to win the hearts, minds, and votes of the Broadway electorate. Whether romping with his younger children, challenging the opposition, marshaling a point-to-point race, or admonishing Alice, Mr. Cariou's Teddy is the very model of a presidential arbiter.

Alice (Nancy Hume) is the outspokenly emancipated daughter whose antics created a field day for the press and whose romance with Nicholas Longworth (Ron Raines) provides the central conflict of ``Teddy and Alice.'' There are times when paternal possessiveness threatens both Alice's marital future and the progress of ``Teddy and Alice.'' But the animated performance staged by John Driver, and particularly the superb response by Mr. Cariou and his colleagues to the mostly Sousa score, preserve the momentum and carry the day.

``Teddy and Alice'' opens with the Roosevelt family tumultuously ensconcing itself in the White House when T.R. assumes the office of the slain President McKinley. In ``This House'' (the adapted ``El Capitan'' march), the Roosevelts are joined by friends, staff, and reporters to celebrate the start of an ebullient new era. Meanwhile, Alice has driven Nick Longworth's Stanley Steamer into a tree and received a ticket for doing 15 miles an hour in a 10-mile zone. Cabinet members Taft, Root, and Lodge opine ``She's Got to Go'' in close harmony.

And so goes ``Teddy and Alice.'' His impetuous daughter barges into the executive office as he and his congressional advisers are trying to resolve difficulties with Panama over the canal. (``A lot of people in the House think we would do better in Nicaragua'' wins the expected laugh.) Fortunately, matters of state and politics never seriously interfere with such more important priorities as ``The Coming Out Party Dance'' and ``Leg O Mutton,'' rompingly choreographed by Donald Saddler.

Nick Long's courtship of a hesitant Alice is further complicated by the very strong ties between the title characters. Although Roosevelt's second marriage has been happy and fruitful, he is haunted by the memory of his first wife, Alice, who died giving birth to her namesake. With Sousa's help, librettist Jerome Alden, lyricist Hal Hackady, and composer-adapter Richard Kapp manage to sort out everything romantically and politically. Teddy defies both capital and labor to win the 1904 election and, after a final struggle (``Can I Let Her Go?''), gives his blessing to Nick and Alice. The White House nuptial festivities can't quite top the rousing ``Wave the Flag'' (``The Stars & Stripes Forever'') Act I finale, but they keep faith with audience expectations.

Besides the principals already mentioned, the winning cast includes Beth Fowler as a patiently forbearing Edith Roosevelt, Nancy Opel as a shy but spunky Eleanor, and Alex Kramarevsky as a dashing Franklin.

``Teddy and Alice'' has orchestrations by Jim Tyler, vocal arrangements and music supervision by Donald Pippin, and dance arrangements by Gordon Lowry Harrell - all under the sure musical direction of Larry Blank. Designer Robin Wagner's fluid scenery (lighted by Tharon Musser) features classic fa,cades, staircased interiors, and a starlit Washington nightscape. Theoni V. Aldredge has costumed the company in an array of fashionable period finery.

All concerned in the collaboration have provided an amiable musical extravaganza - part political cartoon, part pop history, part love story, and all old-fashioned Broadway showmanship.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.