Theater Review: THE GOODBYE GIRL (Musical Theatre Guild at the Alex Theatre in Glendale)

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by Barry Creyton on November 11, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles


The Musical Theatre Guild should be proud of this fine, coherent, splendidly cast reading of The Goodbye Girl, with principals Wendy Rosoff and Will Collyer charismatically suited to their characters, in great voice, and as a couple, exuding all the essential romantic chemistry.

After a mere twenty-five hours rehearsal, and with only the bare necessities of set and musical accompaniment (three pieces led by Dennis Castellano), the impression was more of a complete whole than of a staged reading – indeed, the leads were more confidently off book for their numbers (don’t tell Equity).

So why was this musical so notorious a flop on Broadway? It has the highest credentials: book by Neil Simon, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by David Zippel. Theories run from the “curse” on the Marquis Theatre, to the competition of other hits running more or less simultaneously: Crazy For You, Falsettos, revivals of Guys and Dolls and Most Happy Fella. But the simple fact is The Goodbye Girl, as a musical, seems inconsequential up against the above-mentioned, and even when compared to itself — the light, well-constructed romance of Simon’s original screenplay. Ever since Oklahoma, the numbers have given weight to a musical’s plot, furthering the story by being an integral part of it. Here, the songs, good and tuneful as they are, somehow dilute rather than enhance.

When the text is given its own value, it works brilliantly and the laughs came thick and fast. The acid one-liners sting as the two potential lovers battle for territory. The Richard III sequence, in which a pretentious Hungarian director (exuberantly accented Anthony Gruppuso) urges Elliot to play the eponymous king as a man, playing a woman, playing a man, is as funny as anything Simon ever wrote. Then, Elliot’s recounting the reviews for his performance at the top of Act II, is a succession of laughs tumbling one over another.

Carping aside, an evening spent with this tightly directed musical (seldom, if ever to be seen again), kept a smile on the face beginning to end. Maya Somers played Paula’s daughter Lucy with the charming world-weariness of a kid who’s seen too many of mom’s boyfriends come and go. Together with her buddies Olivia Zenetzis, and Bella Stine, they make great harmony. But again, Simon’s dialogue caps the number: as they exit, one kid drools over Elliot, “If only he was twelve.”

Jenelle Lynn Randall scored with deadpan wisdom and broom as Mrs Crosby, while the formidable ensemble (Marc C. Reis, Tal Fox, Jennifer Knox, Gabriel Navarro, Chelsea Morgan Stock and Jeffrey Scott Parsons) gave us various characters, as well as the precise choreography of Michelle Elkin, all making a nonsense of the mere hours these productions rehearse. Director Linda Kerns is to be lauded.

But the leads provided the heart of this sweetly sentimental piece. Ms. Rosoff’s vulnerable charm and powerful voice made for a moving Paula, and while Mr. Collyer’s warm, secure voicing of the songs gave Elliot strength, his perfectly timed, light-as-air delivery of Simon’s lines, his throw-away assurance of the wisecracks, added a third dimension to the character.

The Musical Theatre Guild is once again to be applauded for their preservation of, and respect for musical theatre history. Their accomplished “readings” are always joyous events.

photos by Alan Weston

The Goodbye Girl
Musical Theatre Guild
Alex Theatre | 216 Brand Blvd. in Glendale
played Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 8
for future events, call 818.243.2539 or visit MTG

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