Five Reasons Encores!’ Me and My Girl Is Ripe for Broadway
By: Iris Wiener
May 13, 2018: A throwback to old musicals with extraordinary humor and wit (albeit slightly anti-feminist), the New York City Center Encores! production of Me and My Girl is delightful at all turns. Here are just a few of the reasons the criminally short-lived show is so very much deserving of an extravagant, lengthy run on Broadway.
- It’s a thoughtful alternative to My Fair Lady. The Lerner & Loewe classic centers on a very similar plot to that of Rose, Furber and Gay’s Me and My Girl; a low-class gal from the wrong side of the proverbial tracks must mend her ways through the help of a sophisticated mentor. In both musicals the protagonists realize that they are happier being themselves, even though they have already transformed. Both shows even feature similar riffs (by no mistake, surely) on the proper way to ask, “How do you do?” Despite questionable moments about gender issues and self-identity, both pieces are light in scope and substance, but the music is timeless and leaves room for astounding production value. My Fair Lady is a big hit for Lincoln Center Theater, and with good reason. Me and My Girl has a more contemporary feel, even though it was first produced in 1937 (before Lady!). Girl outdoes Lady with one-liners and jabs, providing a different, lighter tone.
- Warren Carlyle’s direction and choreography is stellar. One could make the argument that there is never a bad time to bring Warren Carlyle’s work to Broadway, and one would certainly win said argument. The choreography in Girl is exceptional. Audiences often leave a theatre with an earworm from that big 11 o’clock number, but it’s rare to have a dance routine stick in the memory in such a fashion. The fast taps and absolutely uplifting, catchy tapping are just the tip of the iceberg. “The Lambeth Walk” is literally knee-slapping fun, breaking the fourth wall for an immersive, unbelievably entertaining number. Carlyle’s direction is also a treat with the theatre’s limited set pieces and props. One can only imagine the possibilities with a larger-scale production and Carlyle at its helm.
- One-liners with a zing and physical comedy at its best. “Usually I buy myself a new hat when I am down in the dumps,” says Harriet Harris’ Duchess of Dene. Chuck Cooper’s Sir John Tremayne responds, “So that’s where you get them from.” This is only one of the fun pokes in Stephen Fry and Mike Ockrent’s revised book. Clever sight gags provide the back drop for an adorably choreographed chat between Christian Borle’s Bill Snibson and Laura Michelle Kelly’s Sally Smith, guaranteeing smiles from audiences. Borle is a human master class in physical comedy (see number 4). Did we mention those one-liners? Bill is offered an aperitif. “No, I’ve got me own,” he responds.
- Christian Borle. His charismatic smile is extraordinarily wide and goofy, stretching the length of the stage whenever it is on display. Whether his legs are jelly after having been riding, or his cockney accent is emphasized to perfection in various riffs, Borle is a magnet for laughs. As he’s proved with his Tony-winning roles as Black Stache and Shakespeare in Peter and the Starcatcher and Something Rotten, respectively, he is a wiz with over-the-top, exaggerated characters. As Bill, a dopey everyman who wants to remain with his girlfriend while learning to become a member of London’s elite, Borle’s bombastic brilliance steals the show. Moments of sincerity are just as sincere and special. His “Leaning on a Lampost” is as beautiful for the passion behind the words as it is for his stealthy dance moves.
- Inside jokes. It may be called Me and My Girl, but the men take this show. The supporting roles are in on the jokes in a unique fashion, most noticeably with the recurring prompting of Don Stephenson’s Parchester to launch into “The Family Solicitor.” Stodgy with a hint of flamboyance, his number (and its reprises) are hysterical gems. The same can be said for Gerald, played to triumphant extreme by Mark Evans. Gerald’s counterparts know he has a stick up his butt, and we’re privy to his anal retentive nature. You won’t soon forget his trotting around the stage in “The Sun Has Got His Hat On.” Chuck Cooper throwing back drinks with Borle, ruminating on love and life with subtle winks to the ridiculousness of their present troubles? Simply priceless. Me and My Girl @ New York City Center 131 West 55thStreet. 212-581-1212) through May 13, 2018 Photography: Joan Marcus