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NY Theater Reviews

Judy Kaye and David Pittu/ Ph: Joan Marcus



This giddily perfect, sadly-short-term revival of a classic musical comedy deserves a good long run.

Recession or no, angels ought to be lining up to front Kelli O’Hara to a full-scale Broadway production of Bells Are Ringing, a Comden/Green/Styne collaboration that has lost none of its zing over the past half-century – especially as tuned up by David Ives for this Encores! Concert presentation. True, we no longer rely on answering services to field – or as Ella Peterson (O’Hara) is wont to do, meddle with – our phone messages. But compulsive connectors like Ella are with us still: Just look at all the matches, from romance to restaurant referrals and apartment rentals, that Facebook “friends” enjoying pulling off. “All these people you care about,” warns Ella’s employer, Sue Summers of Susanswerphone (Judy Kaye), “you don’t really know them.”
Ella sure gets to, weaving their wants and needs into a comic tangle that ultimately allows everyone – including herself – to achieve their hearts’ desire. She starts out aurally smitten with a playwright, Jeffrey Moss (warm-voiced and serviceable if a bit generic Will Chase), who does a lot more playing than writing: the perennial party scene in his apartment is pure Mad Men. Having taken Jeffrey in hand (“Just in Time,” as he later marvels), she gets a Brando clone (hilarious Bobby Cannavale) to clean up his act enough to be castable, and even secures a showcase for her dentist (Brad Oscar), who’d rather be writing show tunes than drilling teeth.
Meanwhile, a Mutt-and-Jeff pair of cops (Dylan Baker and Danny Rutigliano) are convinced that Sue’s service is a front for some kind of nefarious business – and sure enough, thanks to the wiles of Sue’s feckless suitor (David Pittu, in his element making a fine hash of various pseudo-European accents), it actually is.
Not only is O’Hara brilliantly supported in director Kathleen Marshall’s sprightly, witty revival, she’s free to employ all of her abundant gifts. “The Party’s Over” is a study in stock-still, heart-rending simplicity; in her bounce-back number, “I’m Going Back,” O'Hara gets to exhibit the full range of her extraordinary comic as well as vocal prowess. Utterly enchanting from start to finish, this Ella would surely deserve a spot at the top of anyone’s “must-friend” list.