REVIEW: York Theatre revives “Enter Laughing”—a musical comedy gem
Here’s a hot tip for any die-hard musical comedy fan: there’s a valentine with your name on it waiting at the York Theatre Company.
Kicking off its 50th anniversary mainstage season, the York is currently presenting a top-notch revival of “Enter Laughing: The Musical” that is easily among the best musicals to have played New York all year. A tuneful 1930s period piece about a girl-crazy boy from the Bronx taking his first, comically misadventurous steps into the world of theatre, this once-forgotten gem is sure to have you exit laughing.
Based on Carl Reiner’s semi-autobiographical novel, “Enter Laughing” was first adapted into a Tony-winning stage play in 1963 by Joseph Stein (“Fiddler on the Roof”) and made into a successful 1967 film, before being turned into an ill-fated musical named “So Long, 174th Street” in 1976. That musical had the great misfortune of opening in a season of revolution that included “A Chorus Line”, “Chicago”, and “Pacific Overtures”. No doubt twee by comparison, it was soundly panned, running a whopping 16 performances.
Once facing obsolescence, York Theatre Company has given “Enter Laughing: The Musical” a second (er, fifth) life, previously producing it four times (twice in concert form, twice in mainstage), and now bringing it back for a fifth and gloriously heady production.
Chris Dwan (“Finding Neverland”) stars as David Kolowitz, our leading man desperate to escape his machinist job and avoid his doting parents’ (Alison Fraser and Robert Picardo) dreams of pharmacy college by making it big in show biz. The only problem is, David has little talent and no experience—but makes up for both with his goofy charm.
Mr. Dwan is a first-class comedian whose timing and physical comedy are sharp and effective. He proves an infectious and lovable anchor for this delightful little show. The entire ensemble excels, but other standouts include David Schramm as the stuffy and impatient stage director Harrison B. Marlowe (his act two rendition of “The Butler’s Song” is a tour-de-force), Farah Alvin as his thirsty daughter, Angela (her song, “The Man I Can Love”, is a treasure for any comedienne), and Allie Trimm as David’s somewhat-weary girlfriend, Wanda.
The story spins toward a predictably happy ending—very narrowly walking the line between good old harmless fun and outright sexism—but along the way the book by Joseph Stein (1912-2010) delivers a steady stream of laughs, as do the clever and reference-heavy songs by Stan Daniels (1934-2007), whose greatest fame came in writing and directing for television. Director and Choreographer Stuart Ross keeps the action moving, the jokes crisp, and an ebullient heart beating throughout. This is the kind of musical that reminds you why you love musicals.
Bottom Line: The York Theatre Company presents a top-notch revival of “Enter Laughing: The Musical” that is easily among the best musicals to have played New York all year. A tuneful 1930s period piece about a girl-crazy boy from the Bronx taking his first, comically misadventurous steps into the world of theatre, this once-forgotten gem is sure to have you exit laughing, and remembering why you love musicals.
“Enter Laughing: The Musical”
York Theatre Company
619 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Running Time: two hours, 15 minutes (one intermission)
Opening Night: May 16, 2019
Final Performance: June 23, 2019