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42nd Street Moon Produces Goldilocks

A critical review of the 42nd Street Moon's revival of "Goldilocks."

The number of lost musicals deserving of at least an occasional staging is apparently endless. And it is San Francisco's good fortune that Greg MacKellan and Stephanie Rhodes, the producing artistic directors of 42nd Street Moon, are well versed in just which lost musicals are so deserving. Each season they seem to find yet another series of shows spanning the history of the American Musical that have dropped from sight and are unknown to all but a lucky few.

Goldilocks is just the kind of musical for which MacKellan and Rhodes created 42nd Street Moon. The score, by noted American composer Leroy Anderson (his only musical theatre score) is one of the show's strongest assets. Richly varied in numbers, highly melodic, the capable cast reveled in comic numbers, heartfelt ballads and upbeat songs. Indeed, Goldilocks has attained somewhat of a cult status among musical theatre buffs thanks to an original cast album that has kept interest in the show alive long after it closed after a six month run in 1958.

The book by Walter and Jean Kerr, who also wrote the lyrics with Joan Ford, tells the story of a musical theatre actress in 1913 who makes the mistake of agreeing to make a two-reeler "flicker" just when she is ready to leave the theatre and get married. The expected love-triangle plays itself out against a backdrop of the early days of film making with delightful results.

Indeed, one has to wonder if perhaps the only thing wrong with Goldilocks is the show's title. The title derives from a nickname the title character earns from her manipulative film director and not from any thing to do with visiting three bears (although a bear does appear along the way).

The title character's blonde tresses seem the only real reason for the show's title and Marsha Mercant's performance as Goldilocks, the actress Maggie Harris, is one of the chief reason's this revival is so successful. Mercant's emotional range as an actress is matched by her vocal range as a singer. She deploys both to create a funny, endearing and very real character. Whether confronting her sly director, Max Grady (Jackson Davis) befriending other members of his film company, struggling with her discovery of her growing attraction to Grady or handling her fiancée, George Randolph Brown (Richard Frederick), Mercant finds just the right tone to make the scene ring true.

Davis is a delight as Grady, the small-time film director with aspirations of greatness and the ruthlessness to achieve them. Even at his most manipulative, one can see the good guy beneath the surface. His self-deprecating humor and sometimes disarming honesty flesh out the character without downplaying his flaws. In "I Can't Be in Love," Davis is at his best with an endless series of flawlessly timed takes, grimaces, pauses, and outbursts.

As with many a 42nd Street Moon production, the company has several wonderfully talented performers in the supporting cast--and MacKellan's gift for casting shines through in many of the roles.

Frederick's George is properly proper, just a little bit nerdy, and manages to be completely inappropriate for Maggie, but still a sympathetic character on his own terms. Virginia Wilcox's turn as the hopeful young film starlet trying to catch Grady's attention as both a director and as a man is dippy, sweet and never over-done.

Kim Larsen is the essence of the faithful, frazzled assistant to Max as he tries to cope with his boss's excesses and ruthless ways.

The productions by 42nd Street Moon have edged their way up a bit in the last couple of seasons and now include full costumes. For Goldilocks, designers Linda Rawls and Cindy Brillhart-True have managed to produce a series of costumes that convey the essence of the era (the Teens) without calling too much attention to themselves. And even a few real props have started appearing; a film camera (albeit clearly not a real one) for example, where in the past, its use might have been mimed.

But still, the focus is on the performers and MacKellan's direction, together with Jane Zaban's skillful choreography and Michael Horsley's adept musical direction, bring out the best in both the cast and the show itself. Clearly the creators of Goldilocks meant for their audiences to have a lot of fun when they saw the show and that is just what this production provides.

Kelly Snyder is a freelance reviewer of opera and theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also works as the Assistant Manager of Estate Services at Stanford University's Office of Development. Kelly also writes for San Francisco Frontlines, San Jose Living, and Le Concertographe. Occasionally, he performs Gilbert & Sullivan roles with the Lyric Theatre in San Jose.

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