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Make Mine Manhattan

This once-topical revue has heart, charm, and wit, but ultimately feels too dated to be fullly effective.

By New York City
LaQuet Sharnell
(© Dixie Sheridan)
LaQuet Sharnell
(© Dixie Sheridan)
Make MIne Manhattan, a once-topical musical amuse bouche from 1948, has returned to the stage courtesy of Unsung Musicals at the Connelly Theatre in the East Village. There's plenty of charm and heart -- and a good deal of talent -- behind this production, but it's ultimately not enough to bring this piece back to life for contemporary audiences.

Featuring some joyously jaunty tunes by composer Richard Lewine and lyricist Arnold B. Horwitt (also the work's sketch writer), the show tweaks life in the Big Apple in all of its glory, from the crushes that people living in the same apartment building can develop for another to the inconvenient effect that movie shoots have on the locals.

When the show aims at these sorts of generalized subjects or for a kind of universal comedy (a song about a guy's romantic travails travelling to and from his place in the Bronx to his girlfriend's in Brooklyn is hilarious), there's an unquestionable sense of "oh yes, I know that feeling" for theatergoers.

But in other instances, a paean to the bygone restaurant chain Schrafft's, a song that touts a movie house that has such amenities as a brokerage firm and a powder room with Elizabeth Arden herself on hand, or jokes about once-famous individuals like journalist Westbrook Pegler or politician Grover Whalen, theatergoers may find themselves scratching their heads.

Ben West has directed with an appropriately breezy and unassuming touch: the show unfolds on a bare stage where mood is created by Joe Hodge's colorful lighting design. However, West and musical director Fran Minarik do the production a disservice by placing the two piano accompanists in opposite wings, which makes the entirety of the production sound like one of those awful early attempts at creating stereo records.

LaQuet Sharnell and Bret Shufor have the vocal power to carry their numbers without the aid of amplification, but some other members of the eight-member ensemble struggle to project the songs, particularly when performing choreographer Rommy Sandhu's dances, which have flashes of grin-inducing wit.


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