|Jeb Brown, Jake Epstein, Jessie Mueller,|
Jarrod Spector, Anika Larsen
Photo: Joan Marcus
The show's humor comes in two flavors. The first is setup, setup, lame punchline; setup, setup, lame punchline; and so on. Most of the punchlines rely on the audience's knowledge of the songs, and they are obvious from a mile away. With your eyes closed. And ear plugs in.
The other flavor of humor, people bantering with one another, is much more successful. The relationship between King's good friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann (whose musical output is almost as impressive as King's) includes much warm teasing that is genuinely funny. It helps a great deal that Jarrod Spector is playing Mann and the amazing Anika Larsen is playing Weil. (Larsen shares Eve Arden's ease, presence, and comfort with a laugh line. And if you don't know Eve Arden's work, let me assure you that that is a serious compliment.)
Of course the show is largely about the wonderful, wonderful songs, one right after another. Take Good Care of my Baby. Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Up on the Roof. On Broadway. You've Lost That Loving Feeling. Pleasant Valley Sunday. We Gotta Get out of This Place. (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman. Treat after treat after treat. And each and every one is well-sung.
Director Marc Bruni, Music Supervisor and Arranger Jason Howland, and Orchestrator/Arranger Steve Sidwell, along with the performers, have found a sweet spot where the songs are not slavish recreations of the hit versions but also are not overly changed. Instead, the songs are just different enough to make them distinct and new while retaining the flavor of the period and the originals. It's a nice job.