A Pair of Aces
The Siegels fall in love with Faith Prince and Tom Wopat at Feinstein's, and fall in like with I Love You Because
The act is pitched as a purely romantic evening, and it features a wide assortment of songs that reflect on everything from passion to alimony. It's performed in a breezy, nonchalant style, and the two stars quickly establish an easy familiarity with the audience. Their rapport with each other comes from being friends -- and former co-stars -- for over a decade. The pair's patter is unaffected, and both are willing to ad-lib if the mood strikes. On Wednesday night, for example, Wopat suddenly walked into the audience when he became intrigued by someone's hairstyle and chatted with the gent about it -- unaware that he was a member of the press!
Like their patter, Prince's and Wopat's songs flow with a natural grace. Duets such as "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "Two Lost Souls" are sweetly done, while their solo numbers show off the variety of their talents. Prince is contemplative in "It Amazes Me" and fiery in "What Did I Have That I Don't Have?" while Wopat is wry when singing "Makin' Whoopee" and soulful in "If These Walls Could Speak." The centerpiece of the act is an amusing combination of "If" and "Sue Me." As the stars said in the aftermath of applause that followed their performance, "these two songs have probably never been combined before." Indeed not -- but what an inspired bit it is, smartly arranged by musical director Tedd Firth. And it's inspiring that these two performers have combined their talents for this charming, unpretentious act.
A Fine Romance
The romantic musical comedy makes a modest comeback with I Love You Because. This light and likeable show should appeal to the same audience that made such a hit out of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. While Joshua Salzman's music is a tad generic, Ryan Cunningham's lyrics are often zestfully amusing, and several standout performances help lift the material.
Cunningham's book centers around the tried and true, formulaic situation of a stiff young man (Colin Hanlon) who needs to be loosened up by a free-spirited girl (Farah Alvin), but the show gets extra spice from its secondary pairing of a low-class buffoon (David A. Austin) with an aggressive young businesswoman (Stephanie D'Abruzzo). Alvin is a strong actress with a powerhouse belt; Austin's idiosyncratic comedic skills are showcased along with his vocal prowess; D'Abruzzo, late of Avenue Q, acquits herself well with a brisk, confident performance; and Courtney Balan is funny and endearing in a variety of small roles.
The set, designed by Beowulf Boritt and Jo Winiarski, divides the audience into two halves, and the resultant playing space suggests more possibilities than choreographer Christopher Gattelli explores. Nonetheless, director Daniel Kutner uses the stage well; the actors skillfully play to both sides of the house, moving gracefully from one end of the runway to the other.