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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Irish Repertory Theater

By Robert L. Daniels

   Teddy Eck, William Parry & Donna Bullock/PH:Carol Rosegg

Take Me Along is the ideal spring tonic currently being offered by the Irish Repertory Theater. The 1959 Broadway tuner with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill and a book by Joseph Stein and Robert Russell is based on Eugene O'Neill's only comedy, Ah, Wilderness! an affectionate portrait of a turn-of-the-century New England family. The musical relocates the Miller family to 1920 and the tunes invest the homespun tale with a sweet acceptance and a warmly comic spirit.

The appealing cast unite in an agreeable ensemble performance. William Parry is the understanding family patriarch. He pairs for the shows buoyant title tune with his blowzy brother-in-law and sings the poignant reflection of the aging process with Staying Young. Parry has a wonderful moment when he attempts to tell his restless son the facts of life, and he invests the scene with amusing caution and restraint.

Teddy Eck provides a good account of the bookish self-righteous teen and offers a witty assessment of courtship with I would Die . Beth Glover is grand as the spinster aunt and she really has the most telling musical moments of the score. I Get Embarrassed is a coyly sweet confessional and Promise Me a Rose reveals harbored sentiment that Glover expresses with telling emotional candor.

The petulant Muriel is sweetly conceived by Emily Skeggs, with pert and pouty innocence and Anastasia Barzee offers a saucy account of the local tart. Don Stevenson enacts the genial tipsy Uncle Sid with a kind of rakish charm that perhaps takes a little getting used to. This is the role originated by Jackie Gleason in the Broadway production, and subsequently acted by William Bendix.

Charlotte Moore has staged the musical on the tiny Irish Rep stage with extraordinary flourish and finesse. Barry McNabb's politely confined choreography steps and struts lively despite the limitations of the small stage.

The set design as created by James Morgan boasts a fanciful comic book design of a cozy Connecticut village with its shops, town hall and church steeples. The period costumes as created by Linda Fisher, right down to the high button shoes, recall the stylistic charm of a Currier and Ives print.

It's all so very warm and accessible, and a palatable nod to Broadway's golden age.

For the record, Ah, Wilderness, was musicalized on the screen in 1948 by MGM with a score by Harry Warren and Ralph Blane. The cast included Mickey Rooney, Gloria DeHaven, Marilyn Maxwell, Frank Morgan and Walter Huston.


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