note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Beverly Creasey
If you came of age in the’60s, you either went to Viet Nam, joined the protest movement or you frittered away your time at a go-go club. Both women’s libbers and hippies frowned on those mini-skirted, white booted, dancing “chicks,” flailing away as they did the frug, or the hully-gully or the pony. Television (way before cable) offered an appalling show called “Hullabaloo” where nubile dancers performed the swim and the mashed potato, on display in cubicles for all the world to ogle. (I may have worn a hippie uniform but when I wasn’t sitting-in or marching on, I secretly learned those wacky dances.)
If you weren’t around in the ‘60s, there’s a crackerjack musical up at the Boston Center for the Arts that sends up the era like gangbusters. If you were around then, the Animus Ensemble’s hilarious, hyper-real PROMISES, PROMISES will have you in stitches. Director John Ambrosino tweaks the Hal David/ Burt Bacharach musical just enough to lampoon Neil Simon’s straight-as-an-arrow book, without losing any of the innocence of the love story. Josie Bray’s exquisite choreography (the best this year) nails the absurdity of the movements so deliciously that you’ll be dancing out to the lobby at intermission. Michael Bennett couldn’t have done better in the original—which, by the way, won the late great Jerry Orbach a Tony for Best Actor in a musical. (PROMISES, PROMISES also won in the best supporting actress category.)
Who cares if the music is sappy (“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” is the only song from the show which rode onto the pop charts), the Animus Ensemble production itself is why you should rush to the BCA. What a cast! Some of Boston’s best leading performers are part of the company—and they’re not playing leads—which should tell you how polished the show is.
Jeff Mahoney is the “puny accountant” whose apartment everyone wants to use for their trysts--- and he’s the only one at the firm not misbehaving, although he’d like to be. Mahoney has the classic comic timing (and rubber limbs) of a Donald O’Connor, with the charm and savvy of a Robert Preston. He’s delightful as the sad sack in love with the girl who’s in love with his boss. Aimee Doherty perfectly captures that Audrey Hepburn naïveté: She just doesn’t see that the boss is a cad. Jerry Bisantz manages to give the bad guy a heart and he has one of the best numbers in the show, “Wanting Things.”
Jackie Davis is a standout as the sadder-but-wiser secretary who blows the whistle on the philandering boss and Brent Reno has a field day, flaunting his advantage in the secretarial pool. Jim Jordan is a scream, chasing Reno and taking advantage of his position (literally and figuratively) in the wolf pack. Michael Kreutz, Harold Withee and Michael Hammond join Jordan in wild, choreographed daily testosterone prowls.
Jennifer Condon gets lots of laughs, trolling a bar in her “owl” coat (fabulous period costumes by Courtney Dickson and Meghan O’Gorman) and Richard Carey supplies sly comic oomph to the disapproving doctor-next-door role. Whitney Cohen, Grace Summer and Erin Tchoukaleff are spot on as the gesticulating go-go girls (framed in Peter Watson’s ingenious cubes). Animus gets the spoofing exactly right, from top to bottom. Every performance is a hoot. Even the hair is a hoot. I had so much fun I’d like to see it again!