Style. Class. Grace. Charm. Make Mine Manhattan returns to its roots on the New York stage as a pocket revue after a larger Broadway production opened in 1948 and ran for nearly a year at the Broadhurst Theatre. This new revival preserves all the old-fashioned style and charm that was originally conceived in its smaller form. Arnold B. Horwitt and Richard Lewine do a wonderful job in maintaining elegance, wit, and humor in this classic and delightful musical revue comprised of eight stellar performers and two off-stage pianos.
The show’s theme is set in New York City and cleverly interweaves dialogue and skits with beautiful songs and stylized dance routines. Rommy Sandhu’s diverse choreography is both graceful and elegant while maintaining its period charm. The songs are peppy and cheerful, with hilarious lyrics that are so telling of the typical New York City lifestyle. For example, “The Subway Song” is about trying to maintain a dating relationship when one person lives in “Brooklyn on New Lots Avenue” and the other in “the Bronx on 242nd Street.” Performed by the talented Bret Shuford, he has impeccable comedic timing as he laments this romantic misfortune of two lovers who seem worlds apart.
“Anything Can Happen in New York” tells of life in the Big Apple... tourists, dreams, apartment sizes, subway trains, and practically anything and everything that can happen while living in New York City. “You might even meet a New Yorker who was born in New York!”
The true powerhouse of the ensemble, LaQuet Sharnell, performs standout numbers, “Movie House in Manhattan,” “Schrafft’s (a paean to the once famous restaurant chain),” and my personal favorite, “Please Take it Back,” which was unfortunately cut from the original Broadway production. Her power belting and rich tones need no amplification as she dramatically evokes each number effortlessly.
Broadway veteran and standout, Nicolas Dromard, charms his way as the narrator and carries the show along at a well-proportioned pace. His charisma, confidence, and style are evident in each song, dance, and skit, and can make even the most stoic person blush like a schoolgirl.
Nadine Iseneggger performs the lovely song, “Manhattan in the Spring,” and is later joined by fellow cast members Gabrielle Ruiz and Kristen J. Smith, who all give a whimsical interpretation of springtime in New York City. The four men, Nicolas Dromard, Dennis O’Bannion, Bret Shuford, and Greg Reuter dance and harmonize perfectly in true barbershop quartet fashion with the song, “Good Old Days.”
Director, Ben West, does an excellent job keeping the pacing swift and tight. However, it does seem to lag a little in “Hollywood Heads East,” where the actors take a break from singing and do a sketch about a Hollywood director (Greg Reuter) attempting to film a movie, only to have it sabotaged by a non-actor (LaQuet Sharnell) who refuses to leave the set. Although a little slow, pacing again accelerates when Sharnell reappears with her power solo, “Movie House in Manhattan.”
“Saturday Night in Central Park” also seems slightly out of place when the style suddenly shifts from classy and refined to a hoedown rollick. In addition, I would love to see the two pianos ON stage with choreography revolving around them, rather than remaining hidden in the wings.
Make Mine Manhattan is not only a lovely tribute to New York City as it was in 1948, but is also still relevant today. Brilliant direction, talented cast, and stylized choreography make this musical revue not only classic, but pertinent to today’s standards. So grab your cocktail glass, pour the whiskey and vermouth, throw in a cherry, and come to the Connelly Theatre in the Lower East Side to see Make Mine Manhattan before another 64 years go by.... at least you won't have to go all the way to New Lots Avenue.
Presented by UnsungMusicalsCo. at the Connelly Theatre, 220 E. Fourth St., NYC. March 4–17. Wed.–Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 2 p.m. (212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.