Saturday, May 12, 2007
Stairway to Paradise
The musical revue is alive and well and living at City Center (through Monday, at least). Stairway to Paradise, conceived by Jack Viertel and directed with vigor by Jerry Zaks, charts the progression of this uniquely American phenomenon that took Broadway by storm in the first half of the last century. In true revue form, there's almost no book to speak of (other than two comic scenes that are adeptly performed), and each number flows beautifully into the next. The creative team smartly culled both fanciful slapstick numbers ("Triplets", "Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil") and social commentary ("Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", "Supper Time"), giving the audience a full view of the genre's spectrum. The ebullient cast makes sure that the material never feels mothbitten, with Kristin Chenoweth tearing through what little scenery there is and Christopher Fitzgerald raising the adorable factor to 11. The star of the evening, though, was Ruthie Henshall, whose sultry alto voice is perfect for torch songs like "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye". Frankly, this is the closest I've been to theatrical paradise in quite some time.