- CHARITY BENEFIT
I grew up listening to Gwen Verdon and Thelma Ritter in “New Girl in Town,” the musical version of Eugene O’Neill’s “Anna Christie.” Even back then the score was thin and I did not know how weak the book was; after all Hal Prince produced, George Abbott wrote the book and directed, “Music Man’s” Bob Merrill did the music and lyrics and Bob Fosse choreographed. Verdon and Ritter won Tonys and the show ran for a year. These were Broadway’s greats, but all I can say was theatre had to be sadly lacking for this to have played for so long.
Charlotte Moore and the Irish Repertory Theatre’s production has charisma thanks to its leads Anna (Margaret Loesser Robinson) and Matt Burke (Patrick Cummings) both sing extremely well, act and light up the stage with their chemistry.
The story is inane to say the least. Anna is looking to rebuild her life and escape her past. Back home she was a woman about town using her looks to survive. She drinks like a fish and as soon as she gets to town she meets Marthy (Danielle Ferland), a low class lady friend of her boozing seafaring father, Chris Christopherson (Cliff Bemis). It seems her father sent her to live with relatives when she was a child hoping to give her a better life, but instead child abuse by the hay-full occurred “Down on the Farm.”
Her father takes her to sea but another boat has capsized and they fish out an Irish sailor named, Matt Burke (Patrick Cummings). Matt becomes the hero as the two fall in love at first sight. Her father forbids it, wanting more for his little girl, Marthy. Resentful at sharing Chris with Anna, he gets drunk and spills the beans about Anna’s past, causing Matt to desert Anna. Reunited, because love surpasses all stories in musical theatre, the two repeat the one memorable number in the show, “Did You Close Your Eyes?”
Ms. Moore, choreography by Barry McNabb and the cast make this a show to see but the story lacks any kind of substance. Everything old is not new again.
“New Girl in Town” Irish Repertory Theater, 132 West 22nd St. until Sept. 9th