I Love My Wife
Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart's 1977 musical about wife-swapping comes off as a bit dusty in Reprise's so-so production.
The show's story can be summed up in one question: Will two couples go to bed together? Working class Alvin (Alexander) and his wife Cleo (Lewis) are seduced by the idea of wife-swapping by their friend Wally (Cassidy). The only one left out of the conversation is Wally's wife Monica (Thompson), but she's in for a surprise come Christmas Eve. What may have seemed daring in 1977 comes off three decades later as simply snarky and sophomoric.
Director Larry Moss has smartly aged the characters from their early thirties to their mid-40s, so this exploration of the sexual revolution seems perfect for families affected by empty nest syndrome. He also works some unconventional touches in the stage movements. Crew members dance the sets off the stage; and in one number "A Mover's Life," Alexander transitions the set from the local bar to his living room as he sings and dances. However, having the band members double as ensemble members -- a concept which was true of the original Broadway production -- works less well; they are great musicians, but their singing was fair and their acting in the book scenes subpar.
Without question, Coleman, an extraordinary composer, wrote some delightful tunes in a variety of different genres for the show, and the lyrics by Stewart are tongue-twisters filled with witty asides. As individual songs, they're delightful, but as a structured score, the songs together don't gel. Still, they give the cast some chances to shine.
Cassidy shows off his ability to wrap around Coleman's quick melody in "Everybody Today is Turnin' On" and moves quite well in that ragtime number, but he gives a stale portrayal in the book scenes. Thompson, who's blessed with a powerful belt, jigs wildly in a fun number named after her character, but in the second act, she oversells her character's outrage. Thompson and Lewis, who appear un-invested throughout the show, also get to show off their harmonizing strengths in "Someone Wonderful I Missed." Only Alexander, reprising his well-worn schlemiel persona, excels in the book scenes, including a strip scene funnier than anything in The Full Monty.