When creating a revue from the endlessly celebrated songs of the Gershwin brothers (music by George, lyrics by Ira), the key thing, if you are going to continually interrupt the numbers with your own plot and dialogue, is that it has to be ... well, I won't say "of the same quality," because we're talking about the Gershwins after all. But at least somewhere in the neighborhood.
The writer of 'S Wonderful, world-premiering at CLO Cabaret, isn't even on the same planet.
While the evening's concluding segment is a straightforward dip into the Gershwin songbook, the preceding part is four vignettes all tricked up to stand alone: "mini-musicals" featuring just about every show-biz cliché and cornball line of dialogue you can possibly imagine. American GI falls in love in Paris. Nerdy newspaper gopher has big journalistic dreams. Woman done wrong by her two-timing man. And on and on.
It would be one thing if 'S Wonderful were playing around with these hoary chestnuts, presenting them ironically or mashed up in a po-mo sort of way. But no, the writer seems to think that, because cardboard characters and goofy plot worked in 1917, they'll work now. The writer is wrong.
But who, exactly is the writer? Ray Roderick is credited as having "conceived" the production, but whoever coughed up the plot and dialogue is not listed. (Believe me, in the 22 years I've been at this desk, I've churned out some crap I wish I could take my name off of, too.)
Roderick is also listed as the director, so I can blame only him for the relentlessly furious pace of the production. Although I'm usually railing against shows that move too slowly, 'S Wonderful is at the other end entirely. The tempos are unbelievably and unremittingly fast. Patter songs, ballads, love songs, list songs, novelty numbers ... everything zooms by at a breakneck pace, with no nuance or depth. In their frenetic race to get through the 45 songs in less than two hours, Courtney Bassett, Michael Campayno, Trevor McQueen Eaton, Jessica George and Montaja Simmons have time only to sing on key (which they do) rather than treat each song as the Gershwin gem it is. And the non-stop pianist Deana Muro must be, right now, in an emergency room icing down her swollen fingers and sucking up some oxygen.
'S Wonderful 's not.
'S Wonderful continues through Sept. 5. The Cabaret at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave., Downtown. 412-325-6766 or www.clocabaret.com