Flora the Red Menace
Reprise offers a remarkably bland production of the Kander-Ebb musical about love and communism.
Set during the Great Depression, the show points its satirical fingers at the fat cats who exploit the workers and the American Communist Party, who uses rhetoric to turn the same masses into puppets. Caught in the middle are stuttering activist Harry (Manoel Felciano) and flibbertigibbet Flora (Espinosa), an individualistic and fun-loving fashion artist who loves humanity and wants to trust in Harry's Red-colored ideals so much that he convinces her into signing onto the Communist Party.
The revised book by David Thompson (from the original by George Abbott) deals with some hefty issues, but in very insubstantial ways. Thompson uses cheap sitcom techniques like swapping identical briefcases and mistaken identities. When a Bolshevik seductress winds up half-naked under the bed with Flora and Harry above, it's suddenly as if we're watching an episode of Three's Company. Several of Thompson's jokes not only fall flat, but since the show takes place in the mid-1930s, it seems anachronistic to assume that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's cross-dressing was common knowledge back then.
Espinosa captures an airy charm as her Flora endearingly rambles. Unfortunately, she lacks the spark to enliven the mostly underwhelming songs -- the show's best known number is "A Quiet Thing" -- and doesn't have the vibrato that "Sing Happy" demands to end the show with a bang. Felciano had a few high note issues in his first duet with Espinosa, "It's Not Every Day Of The Week," but he has winning moments in the tongue-twisting "Sign Here" and rousing number "The Joke."