Friday, October 9, 2020

343. NASH AT NINE. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

E.G. Marshall, Virginia Vestoff.

[Musical Revue/Literature] CN/D: Martin Charnin; M: Milton Rosenstock; LY: Ogden Nash; S: David Chapman; C: Theoni V. Aldredge; L: Martin Aronstein; P: Les Schechter and Barbara Schwei i/a/w SRO Enterprises and Arnold Levy; T: Helen Hayes Theatre; 5/17/73-6/2/73 (21)

E.G. Marshall, Virginia Vestoff, Bill Gerber.

This was an intermissionless, hour-and-a-quarter revue composed of Ogden Nash’s comical verses and lyrics set to music. It proved too intimate in manner and limited in appeal to sit well in the (soon-to-be demolished) 1,200-seat Helen Hayes Theatre (not to be confused with the later venue of that name, i.e., the renamed Little Theatre).This despite  Nash’s clever and idiosyncratic rhythms and rhymes being well-enough sung and acted by E.G. Marshall and Virginia Vestoff, supported by Bill Berber, Richie Schechter, and Steve Elmore. (A sample: “Many an infant that screams like a calliope/Could be soothed by a little attention to its diope.”)

David Chapman’s black and white-paneled set of pages from the dictionary and thesaurus was striking and original, and Martin Charnin’s staging appropriately upbeat and blithe. However, the material was often too loosely arranged around thematic structures to provide needed continuity.

E.G. Marshall, Steve Elmore, Virginia Vestoff, Richie Schechtman. 

Reviews were mixed, but most hovered in the lukewarm to politely appreciative range. “[T]he revue passes like a breeze,” wrote Edwin Wilson, and Douglas Watt called it “the perfect after-dinner entertainment.” Martin Gottfried, though, disliked its blandness and the irrelevance of Nash being set to music—“vacant” music at that. Walter Kerr chastised the direction as “coy” and “fussy,” and Clive Barnes thought the show lacked “variety.” T.E. Kalem spoofed the material thusly:

Dear Ogden Nash—

Though dandy your candy,

And puissant your liquor,

Broadway kills quicker.

Late flash—

We still love you pash.