Based on Paddy Chayefsky’s 1955 Oscar-winning film, which featured Ernest Borgnine, it’s the story of a decent, good-hearted but lonely 34 year old butcher who lives in the Bronx with his mother and has given up on love.
With a book by Rupert Holmes and music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, the creators of “Annie” and “Bye, Bye Birdie,” it’s a classic boy-meets-girl plot abounding with awkward conversations, amorous fumblings, insurmountable problems, and an overly simplified resolution.
As Marty, the wonderful character actor John C. Reilly, who has played many notable film roles in the past decade -- “The Perfect Storm,” “Magnolia,” “Boogie Nights,” among others -- is the heart of the show and pulls the audience into the bittersweet story as he pals around with his wisecracking buddies, interacts with his caring mother, or takes tentative, then more definitive, steps towards wooing his love interest, Clara, played by Anne Torsiglieri in an outstanding performance. An ideal complement to Reilly’s gentle, sweet portrayal, the two of them make a convincing argument about the existence of soul mates.
The music is entertaining, although top heavy with forlorn songs, especially in the first act. It would be nice to have a few more selections like “Saturday Night Girl,” the big number featuring Marty’s buddies hanging out at a bar and engaging in one upmanship about their ostensible sexual conquests. The three females who appear on stage in three different and very inventive ways - as though conjured from various parts of the versatile set - display a range of dancing talent from pleasing to passable.
The remaining production elements are smooth and professional, ultimately leaving the audience with a memorable flavor of the fifties that honors Marty’s fundamental decency and humanity.