New York Play Review: The Most Happy Fella, Daily Racing Form, 1956-05-05


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THE MOST HAPPY FELLA By Whitney Bolton NEW YORK N Y May 4 There must have been some shy and skittish reason for Kermit Bloomcarden and the Loessers Lynn and Frank to avoid calling their new show an American op ¬ era or even just an opera but if ever we have had a fine soar ¬ ing beautiful native opera the conversion of They Knew What They Wanted Sidney Howards prize play into The Most Happy Fella is valiantly and melodiously it The Loesser work came into the Imperial theatre with all manner of advance cheer ¬ ing the result of enraptured audiences while the company was on tryout tour But none of the cheering was overstated overstatedand and none too loud All of it was justified for here is a musical of the highest grade in the event you flinch at the word opera of integrity and strength of won ¬ drous design and excellent voices The Loesser score is a giant and it ennobles JheHovard story storyHere Here are solos of power duets of exquisite fervor trios which advance the plot and choral work not to be found this season oh any musical stage nor for some seasons back Indeed although it is grace ¬ less to draw comparisons not since the superb company of Porgy and Bess has such fullstage choral work been heard Its comedic mdments save for one brief lapse are in character and high grade If Mr Bloomgarden and Mr Loesser will stand still for an irked suggestion let them drop forthwith the label pasting scene with its somewhat suggestive action It made a lot of first night people uncomfortable But it is so minor a moment in the whole that to call attention to it may be fractious fractiousRobert Robert Weede of opera and the concert stages is a new Broadway star today Not young bald as a Rhode Island egg tend ¬ ing to be rotund he brings a magnificent voice to the occasion and plays the char ¬ acter of the aging Italian grapegrower hopelessly in love with a San Francisco waitress to its ultimate He conquered his audience hi the first three minutes and when it was over they adored him Hfs singing and his acting working together to create the touching devoted Tony Espo sito overwhelmed an audience which began to cheer before the first act was over con ¬ tinued cheering in the second and when the love duet was sung with Miss Jo Sulli ¬ van the outcries were constant Most musi ¬ cals are content with a few bravos at the finish This one thanksto Mr Weede and Miss Sullivan began getting them early and often oftenMiss Miss Sullivan tiny and blonde and pos ¬ sessed of a blessed voice which pours from her in power and without seeming effort endeared herself as much as did Mr Weede Art Lund making his Broadway debut sang the role of Joe the seducer with vigor and forthrightness and he too earned audience cheers Miss Susan John ¬ son singing the soubrette comedy role was excellent and very funny when allowed Shorty Long was her partner in the comic business and when they duetted Big D little a doubleell as they created havoc havocDania Dania Krupska has staged energetic vaulting country dances and the energies and graces of which fit the California locale and character and the dancers are excellent A singing trio Arthur Rubin Rico Froehlich and John Henson captivat ¬ ed the audience w i th Italian specialties fitted to the region and Keith Kalderiberg sang the role of the doctor with quiet strength strengthJo Jo Mielziners settings are as is cus ¬ tomary jewels and his backdrops of the advancing seasons hi the Napa Valley are enchanting Motley has costumed with beautiful imagination and a true eye for the nature of the story and the people peopleThe The Most Happy Fella is superb Amer ¬ ican opera and a superb musical show This happy hearttugging warm event comes late in the season but is trice wel ¬ come and certainly destined to remain long

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