FOR years, Hollywood looked to Broadway for its inspiration. The challenge was to find a way to open up a stage musical for the silver screen, with the hopes of turning a hit musical into a hit film. Nowadays, with the American musical in serious danger of total extinction, Broadway is turning to hits from the silver screen in an attempt to create new successes for the Rialto.
The latest example is "My Favorite Year," based on the 1982 movie starring Peter O'Toole and Mark Linn-Baker. The story, which unfolds in 1954, revolves around the dissipated Alan Swann (played by O'Toole) a has-been swashbuckler, who is invited to appear on a live TV comedy show. Benjy Stone (Linn-Baker), a young writer, is ordered to watch over Swann and keep him from overindulging.
The movie is an affectionate sendup of faded Hollywood actors, live TV, and the art of farce, among other things.
The musical, which opened last Thursday at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, pares down the scope of the film's delirious lunacy and squeezes it into a traditional 1950s-style musical comedy, complete with lovestruck juvenile and ingenue, and comic relief duo.
This all serves to make "My Favorite Year" yet another in an apparently endless stream of loving leaflets to nostalgia, albeit not a particularly compelling one.
The contributions of Andrea Martin and Lainie Kazan are the show's greatest assets. Ms. Martin is a gifted comedian with a repertoire of looks, gestures, and pratfalls that are used to maximum effect in a scene where her character counsels the ingenue (Lannyl Stephens) in how to tell a joke and be funny. The grimly humorless vaudeville routine she is saddled with later on should have been deleted altogether. Ms. Kazan, one of the great voices on a Broadway stage today, is allowed to run wild in her vario us scenes, and she makes the most of the often thin material.
Tim Curry, who plays Alan Swann, is a superior stage performer, but he appears too hale and normal to make the role work. And the attempt to transform his rocky relationship with his daughter into a plot device of paramount importance (it was a bare aside in the film) proves ill-advised.
Evan Pappas, as Benjy Stone, is relentlessly ingratiating, but he does have moments of gentle charm. The movie treats his growing romantic entanglement as a series of breathless encounters that add up to a commitment; here we get the full-fledged musical-comedy treatment, and those scenes really stop the forward-motion of the show cold.
In fact, pacing is a serious problem in Joseph Dougherty's book, especially in the inert second act. Director Ron Lagomarsino tends to rely too heavily on his cast members to keep energy alive, and the stale, trite choreography by Thommie Walsh is no asset.
The score - music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens - is pleasant and energetic, with one particularly nice ballad for Swann to end the first act. Several of Thomas Lynch's sets are effective, and Patricia Zipprodt has given Kazan, in particular, some appropriately outlandish costumes.