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A CurtainUp Review June Moon

The "Ring" around June Moon still gives the old fashioned spoof of TinPan Alley a satisfyingly dark glow. The show has moved intact--except for a few cast changes. Lee Wilcof is an able replacement for the desperate novelty song writer originally played by Peter Jacobsen. Jessica Stone is an inspired new Edna Baker with a face and comic timing that makes this June Moon shine even brighter than its earlier version at the more modest Ohio Theatre. The Variety Arts production also boasts a terrific new window cleaner/piano player in Bruce W. Coyle. The bit where he and Maxie change places remains hilariously funny.

The holdovers are better than ever, especially the the endearing and always amusing pianist Maxie Schwartz ("that's a Greek name!"). Even Jonathan Bixby's delicious costumes, at least most of them, have travelled uptown -- including a snazzy black pin-striped suit whose pants have apparently been let out at the rear seam to accommodate Robert Ari's battle of the butt.

While this second-time-around viewing didn't have quite the excitement for me that comes from discovering something fresh and new, (even if, as in this case, it's something quite old), I was surrounded by enough enthusiastically amused first-time viewers to catch some of their delight in coming to the production without prior experience. Judging from the full house at the Sunday matinee I attended it looks as if this second coming, (actually, the third if you count a recent McCarter Theater version and the 1929 original), will win new fans for this new-old comedy and the Drama Dept. even at Off-Broadway prices that are hardly the spectacular bargain of the Off-Off-Broadway production.

Since everything said in our review of the show at the Ohio Theatre still applies, we refer you to that review (see end of box below) for a more detailed description. Perhaps the best sumup of why this revival has travelled so far is this quote from actress Dana Ivey's remark upon awarding the Drama Dept. the 1997 Encore Taking-Off Award for its very fresh and original revival of June Moon:. "They (the Drama Dept.) Unearthed a 70-year-old chestnut and gave it new life as if it were written 7 minutes ago."

March 6, 1998: The show's closing notice has been posted for 3/15 after 30 previews and 69 performances.
By George S. Kaufman and Ring Lardner
Music and lyrics by Ring Lardner
Directed by Mark Nelson
Scenic Design by Bill Clarke
Costume Design by Jonathan Bixby
Lighting Design by Kirk Bookman
and Sound Design by One Dream Sound
. Variety Arts Theatre (110 Third Avenue (212/ 239-6200)
12/18/98; (official Variety Arts opening 1/15/98)
Original review with background on drama dept see June Moon review Ohio Theater
Re-reviewed 1/19/98 by Elyse Sommer

©Copyright January 1998, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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