Broadway might as well be subtitled "A Manhattan Melodrama." Set in a room situated directly off stage at the Paradise Night Club, the play concerns the efforts of hoofer Roy Lane to hook up romantically with chorine Billie Moore, with whom he has worked up an act. The problem is that Billie has attracted the attentions of Steve Crandall, a rich man-about-town who supposedly made his money in Florida real estate but is actually a bootlegger with henchmen Dolph and Porky in tow. Various sorts of trouble -- including murder -- result from Crandall's attempts to expand his operations to Harlem and thereby muscle in on the territory of another bootlegger, Scar Edwards. The play's dialogue is as colorful as the character names, peppered with such '20s slang terms as "sap" (for "fool") and "bulls" (for "cops"). And in a delightful bit of foreshadowing of a later George Abbott show, Roy encourages Billie to do her best with "On your toes, baby!"
The best thing about the excellent Pittsburgh Public Theater production of Broadway is the direction of Ted Pappas, who is also the company's artistic and executive director. In a note in the PPT newsletter, Pappas explains that the show is pointedly being billed as Broadway: The Play "so people would know that it's not a musical." Be that as it may, he was wise enough to direct the production as if it were a sharp, snazzy, '20s tuner; the pace never slackens for a moment, and the actors' timing is spot-on. (The running time is two hours and 15 minutes, including one intermission.)
A cute running gag in the show is that we see Roy and the Paradise chorines in a variety of borderline tasteless, vaudeville-type costumes as they dance on and off stage -- everything from pirate garb to Spanish duds to tropical island get-ups complete with grass skirts. Costume designer David R. Zyla has really gone to town here; he probably had as much fun coming up with this stuff as the cast has wearing it. Equally superb are the other production elements: James Noone's scenic design, Dennis Parichy's lighting, and sound designer Zach Moore's selection of fabulous old recordings to play at various points in the show and during the exhilarating, choreographed curtain call. The Pittsburgh Public Theater production of Broadway is exemplary from its first moments to its last.
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