note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Beverly Creasey
What sensational musical features a band of French speaking pirates from New Jersey, an upside down dream where baby carriages have to make way from trucks… and a wacky horserace? No, it’s not a Marx Brothers free-for-all. It’s Rogers and Hart’s PEGGY-ANN.
If you missed it this past weekend (at the Longy School of Music), you’re cooked. Or you can find someone who saw it and let them regale you. Herb Fields’ uproarious dialogue still has me giggling. American Classics did it again. Their revivals of historical musicals are the stuff of legend and PEGGY-ANN races to the top of the list.
Richard Rogers was only twenty-four when he and Lorenz Hart wrote PEGGY-ANN. It’s a classic for a number of reasons: the infectious music (I’ve been humming “Our Little Tree inside the Park” for days) and for the insight into Rogers’ later work, not to mention the musical’s influence on Noel Coward, Lerner & Lowe or Harburg and Arlen. The overture has strains of what will become “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” in it and Beethoven even makes an appearance, albeit via Gilbert & Sullivan. PEGGY-ANN is a romp from start to finish. It didn’t hurt that director David Frieze assembled a solid gold cast either, for the (almost completely staged) concert performance.
Just imagine a drenched Ida Zecco Mae West-ing her way through hilarious dialogue like “I’m so wet that if you blow on me, I’ll ripple.” Or Bob Jolly fish-tailing about the stage. Poor innocent Peggy-Ann. She dreams of being wealthy but she’s so sweet, she would only buy a hat if she had a million dollars, “or an egg now and then.” And when she manages to get some shuteye, she can’t pull off a wedding even in her dreams.
Mary Ann Lanier and Brent Reno are paired again at American Classics as the adorable young lovers, buoyed by the indomitable Ben Sears and Brad Conner and a passel of Boston’s finest singer/actors. But what sets this American Classics effort apart from its predecessors is the dancing. Jennifer Farrell-Engerbretson choreographed (and performed, a la Cyd Charisse) some exquisite modern danse/ballet. What I wouldn’t give to see the show again …or maybe just Ida Zecco’s show-stopper, “Won’t you give this little girl a hand.” If only American Classics could take PEGGY-ANN on the road.