Tuesday, May 15, 2007

110 in the Shade

I love when I go to a show and see cast members who look as if they’re really having fun. That’s the case with this charming revival of “110 in the Shade.” I hope they are, because I certainly had a great time.
This is a simple story, with a simple revolving set, brought to life with zestful dancing and sincere performances. There wasn’t one uneven moment in the whole two and a half hours.
Having Audra McDonald in the cast is always a plus. From the moment she bursts through the door of her little house as Lizzie Curry she is someone you’ve just got to root for. With “Love, Don’t Turn Away” she channels all of Lizzie’s spirit and longing. “Love, if you’re looking for a quiet place, I’ve got a heart that’s absolutely free,” she sings while tidying up the house. “I have so many things I want to do for you, so love don’t turn away.”
John Cullum as her supportive father is delightfully impish as he and his two sons dance around the single sheriff trying to do a little matchmaking on Lizzie's behalf. And Steve Kazee as Starbuck, the con man, is so appealing it’s no wonder he has the whole town singing and dancing. I was ready to join them.
But it’s really Lizzie’s story and McDonald makes the most of it. She is a riot as she lets her inner vamp go with “Raunchy.” Then she can turn on a dime to let her anger and frustration out in “Old Maid.” She creates a Lizzie who’s funny, passionate and smart. All she needs is a little awakening by the right person.
“110 in the Shade” is an old-fashioned show which hasn’t been revived on Broadway since its original 1963 production. Part of its appeal is understandable since its songs are by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones who wrote the music for “The Fantasticks,” another romantic little musical that has been revived this season in a moving production at the Snapple Center.
The intimacy of staging for “110” and the sweetness of its story make for a special evening. Catch it while you can. It plays only through July 29.

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