CURLEY - THE MUSICAL

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide

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"CURLEY - The Musical"

note: entire contents copyright 1995 by Larry Stark

Book by Frank Alcorn

Additional; Dialogue by David Mauriello
Music and Lyrics by Robert Johnson
Directed by David Frieze
Choreography by AnnRobideaux
Produced by Robert Johnson and Nancy Harrington
at The Black Rose Pub Sundays, till 28 January

C A S T

           James Michael Curley...................John Marshall
           Mary Curley, etc. ......................Heidi Dallin
           Dan Reardon, etc. ...............Steven R. Malatesta
           Standish Wilcox, etc. .................Jed Alexander
           Gertrude Casey Dennis, etc. .........Jeannie Clement
           Newsboy, etc. ........................Cynthia Geller
           Meagan McCarthy, etc. ................Julie Pelegrin
           Franklin Deleano Roosevelt, etc. ...James McGonnigal
           Judge Farnsworth, etc. .................Craig Miller
           Yankee, etc. ............................Mark Spence
           Shoeshine Boy, etc. ......................Dave Leigh
    
Obviously, things can go wrong when there are cast changes in a long-running show. On January 7th, at The Black Rose, Judy Pellegrin went in for M.K. Larsen, and Jamie McGonnigal for Jim Sullivan, and something did indeed go wrong: One of three women choristers lost her kerchief. It was snatched from the stage on their exit with a gesture of in-character flair.
And that was all.
And considering that the eleven cast-members play fifty-five different named characters in two whirlwind hours of quick- stepping and quick-changing scenes, songs and dances, this is a tribute to the secure professionalism of this energetic cast.
Director David Frieze and Choreographer Ann Robideaux keep this cast in continual, fluid motion through the sixty-three remembered years of Mayor Curley's political life. Years flit past in seconds, fortunes rise and fall, selfless generosity and dishonest graft, chicanery and fierce partisan principals come hap-hazardly to the surface. On the small stage a word and a gesture calls an ornate staircase into being, a new hat and a change of posture creates a whole new person, and the eye is always on some single actor stepping into a "moment" --- and often into several as the kaleidoscope shakes.
James Michael Curley was elected U.S. Congressman and Governor, but from 1914 to 1949 he was Mayor of Boston four separate times. He defined the image of bare-knuckled Irish politicians in 1903 when he got elected Alderman while in Charles Street Jail for having taken a Civil Service examination "for a friend" --- and he spent six months of his last Mayoral term in 1947 in the Federal Pen for Mail Fraud. First elected at a time when "No Irish Need Apply" signs condemned many to grinding poverty, he fought for the dignity and prosperity of the underclass by any means that came to hand, and at his death almost a million mourners filed past his casket in the State House.
Frank Alcorn and David Mauriello have written a lightning- stroke slide-show of this flamboyant career, often imbedding history lesons in Robert Johnson's songs. The Brahmin Yankees and the dour "Fin.Com" of financial oversight investigators are the enemy, as drunken Irish and other immigrants in the first minutes of this spectacle follow their fierce leader up a ladder of respectability till Curley can dicker with F.D.R. over needed support for the fateful 1932 nomination.
In the center of almost every scene stands John Marshall, radiantly smiling, ramrod-straight in double-breasted suit and gold chain --- orating, conniving, swaggering, self-critical, human and larger than life by turns. As his wife and conscience, Heidi Dallin keeps him human, though she poigniantly sings of the shadowed glory making home and family as a "Politician's Wife". Then, later in act two, Marshall and Jeannie Clement have a tender scene wherein two "Lonely People" find the glow of love in the ashes of their mutual widowhood.
Everyone else onstage serves to swell a scene again and again. Steven R. Malatesta as a lifelong supporter, gives raunchy vitality to a choral paean to money -- the "Mother's Milk" of politics. Jed Alexander sports cane and top-hat as the first and staunchest of Curley's Yankee-turncoat supporters. Craig Miller, Mark Spence, and Dave Leigh in green eyeshades maintain a continued finger-snapping opposition as the Financial Committee. Cynthia Geller's spotlight-turns are as the ever-present corner newsboy, Jamie McGonnigal's as a deal-making F.D.R., Julie Pelegrin's as adoring scrub-woman Meagan McCarthy. But this is only a quick catalog of moments in which this polished, generous cast steps aside to let one of their number take center stage.
"Curley - The Musical" will play only three more Sunday afternoons a few silent, snow-clogged blocks from Quincy Market. But everyone connected with it obviously has a theatrical future --- and a credit from this show in their resumes should carry weight in casting-calls for years to come.
This group is good.

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | CURTAIN | USHER | INTERMISSION |