By Marlene S. Gaylinn
The good news about the musical “Good News,” which opens “Goodspeed’s 50th Anniversary Season,” is that the musical fits the nostalgic atmosphere of this historical theatre. Speaking about nostalgia, it was striking that some grey-haired audience members were shaking their heads to the show’s tunes -- although the period depicted was probably way before they were born. How come? I can explain...
In 1927, when this very successful show with music and lyrics written by Ray Henderson, B.G. DeSylva and Lew Brown originated on Broadway, my mother, had just arrived from Russia. Although well educated, she was not part of the wealthy, American, college elite. She met my father, a native-born American, and his family was not wealthy enough to send him to college either. However, everyone read newspapers, saw glamorou, Hollywood films, and therefore the stylish, college crowd was a big influence on average, young people. And so, my father wore knickers and took up the mandolin, while my mother, bobbed her hair, wore short dresses and had a raccoon coat. I remember the popular songs from this era -- because they were being played on the radio when I was small -- and mother could still out-dance any flapper with her Charleston. While this all took place during their parent’s lives, it’s nostalgic for older folks today. Raccoon coats were not part of the costumes worn during the “Good News” football season depicted at Goodspeed. They would be hard to get, too cumbersome, and impossible to wear for dancing. However, the girls’ outfits, designed by Tracy Christensen were stylish and the ancient football outfits presented a nice touch.
College hero’s and misfits, romances gained and lost, some unserious learning, spoiled kids and an emphasis on carefree foolishness are what “Good News” is about. Some of the writing is hilarious but when the music and dancing stops, everything slows. The dialogue could use some cutting. The original show was revised many times, and songs were added. Jeremy Desmon, adapted this version of “Good News,” and Goodspeed’s new dance arrangements are by David Krane. The opening number and the slow-motion football ballet are absolutely mesmerizing.
Tessa Faye as the oversexed “Babe” who wants to be bad, and Barry Shafrin as “Bobby,” of the meekest and weakest males, is an odd, but perfect match -- especially in “Button Up Your Overcoat.” The couple is fun to watch and will grab most of your attention throughout the show -- and that’s all you need to know to make the trip to East Haddam worthwhile. Sub-plots include football hero Tom, played by Ross Lekites, his fatherly coach, Mark Zimmerman, and their girlfriends Chelsea Stock, Lindsay O’Neil and Beth Glover. The overall production is an entertainment vehicle for some very cute song and dance numbers: “The Best Things in Life are Free,” “You’re the Cream in my Coffee,” “Life’s Just a Bowl of Cherries,” “Keep Your Sunny Side Up” etc.
As TV’s Archie and Edith Bunker would say, “Those were the days.” They just don’t write pretty songs like they used to.
Plays through April 12 -- Tickets: 860-873-8668
This review appears in “On CT&NY Theatre”/May/2013