Friday, November 6, 2020

373. ONE FOR THE MONEY, ETC. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Center: Nancy Hamilton; left of ladder, bottom to top: Pat Lysinger, Liz Otto, Georgia Engel, Joy Garrett, Pamela Adams;right, top to bottom: Douglas Houston, Geoff Leon, Charles Murphy, Edward Penn, Jess Richards.
ONE FOR THE MONEY, ETC. [Musical Revival] B/LY: Nancy Hamilton; M: Morgan Lewis; D/CH: Tom Panko; S/C: Fred Voelpel; L: Judy Rasmuson; P: Charles Forsythe; T: Eastside Playhouse (OB): 5/24/72-5/11/72 (23)

In this rather rare example of a musical revue revival, pieces from three old shows by the same writer and composer were stitched together for production at Off-Off-Broadway’s Equity Library Theatre on W. 103rd Street. The originals were One for the Money (1939), Two for the Show (1940), and Three to Get Ready (1946). It proved likable enough to be moved to a commercial showing Off Broadway.

The commercial version abandoned what Howard Thompson called Jeffery K. Neill’s “brilliant” staging, which had “a tangy flavor somewhere between Spearmint and champagne,” for new helming by Tom Panko, which Thompson liked well enough. And, despite strong reviews, only three of the Off-Off production’s 14 performers (now trimmed to 10)—Edward Penn, Douglas Houston, and Geoff Leon—were included in the new production. One of the newcomers, however, the late Georgia Engel, would go on to a fine career.

The show avoided topicality and famous namedropping and barely seemed dated, even when including bits redolent of the 40s, like one about radio giveaway programs. The songs remained fresh, especially the popular standard, “How High the Moon,” rendered by Jess Richards. Other tuneful offerings included “The Old Soft Shoe,” performed by Houston, and “If It’s Love.”

The sketch highlight was a parody of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy performed in a folksy context suggested by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! with a side dish of Carousel. Another standout involved a catty session in which four New Jersey women study Russian together.

Edith Oliver loved it Off-Off, even hoping that, when it transferred, “it will run forever.” She changed her mind, however, when she viewed the upscale version, grumbling, “much of it its lovely, innocent, carefree spirit has evaporated.” But Thompson stuck to his guns, declaring, “The show is charming, as neatly designed and spun as it is guileless at heart.”

Regardless, instead of running forever, few were willing to use their money for a ticket to One for the Money, Etc.