I Married an Angel is the great unknown Rodgers and Hart musical. Despite a long run on Broadway during 1938 and 1939, we flushed it from our collective memory after its national tour (which included a 1940 run at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre). 42nd Street Moon revived this little gem, which more that lives up to the Cole Porter lyric: “It’s smooth! It’s smart! It’s Rodgers! It’s Hart!”
A strong cast, excellent pacing, and solid choreography make this production a great romp through what passes for the moneyed Budapest classes, bank runs, and marital distress. Banker Count Willy Palaffi (Sean Thompson) declares he’s has had it with women and insists that he’ll only marry an angel, causing angel Brigitta (Kari Yancy) to descend to earth in sympathy. The action, while predictable, is eminently entertaining.
“It’s smooth! It’s smart! It’s Rodgers! It’s Hart!”
Thompson’s leading man good looks and strong voice stand him in good stead. The only issue is that he looks unnervingly like Gavin Newsom, which brings a rather delicious strangeness to the production. Couple that with Yancy’s uncanny similarity to Elisabeth Moss (think Peggy on Mad Men), especially when she smiles, and you’ve got something that would keep the attention of a somnambulant narcoleptic.
Not that there’s any danger of nodding off here. There’s nary a slow moment in either Act I or Act II. In many ways, this is the best of Rodgers and Hart, impeccably scripted and consciously paced for maximum effect. While packed with very gay energy, director Greg MacKellan wisely steered this away from the far side of camp, choosing instead to let the natural preposterousness of the script carry the day. This decision let the talents of his very able cast shine.
Relative newcomer Nathaniel Rothrock nailed the role of Peter Mueller, secretary to Count Willie with the perfect proportions of deference and exasperation. His tap number, How to Win Friends and Influence People, performed with Halsey Varady, as golddigger Anna Murphy, brought down the house near the end of the first act. Allison F. Rich, as the Countess Peggy Palaffi, merits additional mention. This was not the easiest of roles, as it had been originally written for Larry Hart’s friend, Vivienne Segal. Rich managed to find the sweet spot, winning the audience’s forgiveness, despite her irritating manner.
Best of all, this production managed to overcome the damning acoustics of the Eureka Theatre. I’ve sat in the fifth row of the Eureka, watching what should have been fantastic theatre, but for the fact, that the place eats sound worse than the Cookie Monster devours cookies. For reasons unfathomable, none of those issues were at hand here.
I Married an Angel runs at the Eureka through November 17th. Like the song says, it’ll bring a twinkle to your eye.