Posted by: operatheaterink | June 21, 2011

Review: ‘Something for the Boys,’ Theatre West, June 21, 2011

In Memory of Betty Garrett!

Betty Garrett


COLE PORTER (MUSIC AND LYRICS)
HERBERT & DOROTHY FIELDS (BOOK)
‘SOMETHING FOR THE BOYS’
THEATRE WEST, LOS ANGELES
SEEN JUNE 19, 2011

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

When Betty Garrett and Larry Parks were married, actor Lloyd Bridges was the best man. And on Sunday, June 19, Bridges’ son and granddaughter — Beau and Emily Bridges — took part in a concert reading with Garrett’s son and granddaughter — Madison Claire Parks and Andrew Parks, her uncle.

Cole Porter’s “Something for the Boys” was Garrett’s first successful Broadway musical. Rarely performed, it was read with much vim and vigor at Theatre West, the company which Garrett co-founded. The benefit performance in memory of Garrett (who died Feb. 12) raised funding for the Betty Garrett Musical Comedy Workshop, which is now moderated by longtime company member, Mary Garripoli.

The event was quite a family affair. The parents seemed to be passing the torch to their offspring. In addition to the Parks and Bridges families, the Schwartz and Gallogly families got into the act, too. Elliot Schwartz was Laddie Green. He is the son of Lloyd and Barbara (Mallory) Schwartz, the producers of Storybook Theatre. And Caitlin Gallogly portrayed Michaela. She is the daughter of John Gallogly and Mary Garripoli. John Gallogly is the executive director of Theatre West.

One thing is quite certain: the members of Theatre West are securing the company’s longevity by infusing some young blood into the company’s veins.

What makes Theatre West special and unique is that veteran professional actors do the performing, yet the feeling in the theater is one of community, not unlike community theater.

The audience was rooting for the actors because the audience and actors were friends, which was evident at the reception after the show. This can only happen when a company has actors who reappear throughout the years. The younger actors were grateful for the compliments. The older actors were happy to be a part of a production that commemorated the talents of Betty Garrett, who portrayed Mary-Frances in the show on Broadway. Garrett was Ethel Merman’s understudy, which enabled her to also perform the role of Blossom when the star was ill. This brought Garrett visibility and was the catalyst for her long and successful career in musicals, films with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, and television shows, including “All in the Family” and “Laverne and Shirley.”

THE PLAY

“Something for the Boys” is about three cousins who turn their inherited Texas ranch into a boarding house for soldiers’ wives.

The concert reading lacked adequate rehearsal, but that didn’t seem to matter. When Andrew Parks’ moustache started to pull away from his lip, he simply pressed it back down again, and that made for an amusing interlude. When Barbara Minkus was alone on stage, I presumed that she was going to sing a solo. Instead, she said something like: “Where’s Rocky?” And by golly, Daniel Keough (Rocky) suddenly appeared. I guess he’d missed his cue, but Minkus handled the moment like a pro, and everyone seemed to enjoy the little mishap far more than if everything had gone smoothly. Could some of this have been planned? Nah . . . well maybe.

The set was simple with only a few music stands for the actors to place their scripts. A piano was strategically placed downstage right, played aptly by music director Brian O’Halloran.

On the whole, the performances were admirable. I will focus on the standouts.

My personal male favorites were Beau Bridges as Tobias Twitch and Andrew Parks as Harry Hart. My female favorites were Madison Claire Parks as Mary-Frances and Barbara Mallory as Mrs. Grubbs.

When Beau Bridges uttered his first line, “My name is Tobias Twitch,” his demeanor and characterization were evident immediately, and everyone in the audience laughed. He is a master at using the subtext of dialogue to bring out the hidden aspects of a play or script. Bridges was a hoot.

The other major standout was Madison Claire Parks. She looked great, sang well, and had the vibrant energy and charisma of her famous grandmother. She sang “I’m In Love With a Soldier Boy,” which was the song that Betty Garrett sang in the Broadway show. This young actress is going places.

Andrew Parks was smooth as Harry Hart. His timing and abilities as an actor-singer were evident. And Barbara Mallory (Mrs. Grubbs) developed a full-blooded, quirky character with an accent and demeanor that made her, well, quite a character.

The actors didn’t try to follow the age specifications inherent in the play. But why should they have? This was a reading. It was fun, and they all had a good time doing it.

With maturity in their voices, Barbara Minkus (Blossom), Devra Korwin (Chiquita Hart) and Daniel Keough (Rocky) revealed their vocal chops. Their quick reflexes and reactions revealed their consummate professionalism.

Lee Meriwether as Melanie Walker added class and sophistication to a group of more bourgeois characters – or maybe Melanie was simply a snob.

Caitlin Gallogly (Michaela) displayed solid vocal technique, talent and grace. Emily Bridges (Betty-Jean), Laura Wolfe (Lucille) and Elliot Schwartz (Laddie Green) added solid performances to the ensemble. Anthony Gruppuso (Lt. Col. Grubbs) brought zeal, zest and zip to the proceedings. Andre Landzaat (Roger), David P. Johnson (Burke) and Robert W. Laur were commendable.

A bit short on plot, the musical has nice catchy tunes, and it was good to see it emerge from the mothballs.

The actors had fun. We had fun. Everyone was happier for having had the experience. And Betty Garrett was smiling down on us.

Director, Musical Director and Accompanist: Brian O’Halloran
Co-Producers: Jill Jones and Sandra Tucker
Stage Manager: Courtney Webb

Betty Garrett’s 90th Birthday Bash


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