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This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the November 21, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Drama Review: `Tintypes’
the right, Sing out for Union and its might, O patriotic sons.
Most Americans first heard "Yankee Doodle Boy,"
"You’re a Grand Old Flag," and "Stars and Stripes
in kindergarten, and for many, that was where these songs seemed to
belong. Perhaps because they were written in a bygone era their
to day-to-day American life seemed, at best, negligible. Built around
a naive sentimentality that became dated over the decades, they
to celebrate an America willfully ignorant of such thorny issues as
the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, or Watergate. They remained the
treacly offerings of school assemblies and Fourth of July parades.
But times have changed. A by-product of the current national terrorism
crisis is the wave of unabashed patriotism sweeping through everyday
life. Little American flags, conveniently designed to attach to car
widows and antennas, now adorn the parking lots of shopping malls
everywhere. Rap singers are seen on TV waving the red, white, and
blue, and "The Star Spangled Banner" is routinely played at
noon by rock ‘n’ roll radio stations across the country.
The decision to kick off the Off-Broadstreet Theater’s 2001-2002
with the 1980 Broadway hit "Tintypes," a feel-good patriotic
musical revue, was made last June. At first glance it seems to be
the perfect show to fit these times of renewed patriotism.
Conceived by Mary Kyte with Mel Marvin and Gary Pearle, it is
of old-time flag-waving patriotic tunes mixed in with such familiar
toe-tappers as "She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain," "A
Bird In A Gilded Cage," and "Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay." A bit
of pathos, as well as a nod to the more complicated issues of the
American experience, is offered with the inclusion of songs like
I Feel Like A Motherless Child" and "Nobody."
But watching "Tintypes" is a lot like watching reruns of the
"Lawrence Welk Show" or "Ozzie and Harriet." There
is a syrupy glaze over the entire show that one can’t escape. This
glaze goes beyond the songs themselves, seeping into the performances.
Although everyone in the cast are accomplished performers and can
certainly carry a tune, the general tone of the show is too
cute, as if everything were bedecked with ribbons and curls.
"Tintypes" has just a mere shadow of a story. A young
man arrives in America at the turn of the 20th century and experiences
American life in song and dance. There are brief, blowsy appearances
by such historical figures as Teddy Roosevelt, Emma Goldman, and
Brice to help sketch out the times. There is also a strained
of several vintage vaudeville sketches, filled with lame jokes and
slow-moving physical comedy.
But the backbone of "Tintypes" is its program of almost 40
pre-World War I songs, performed by its cast of five, and assisted
by a five piece band. Cuteness aside, the cast does provide some nice
Denise Mihalik is a fine and confident singer. She performs "Meet
Me in St. Louis" with a flair that betrays her operatic background
as she daintily clutches the string of a purple helium-filled balloon.
Her rendition of "If I Were On The Stage (Kiss Me Again),"
performed as she gracefully glides on a flowered swing over the front
edge of the stage is one of the show’s high points.
Arthur Hochman, who steps in and out of the role of Teddy Roosevelt,
has a knack for some of the hepped-up comedy routines. Geoffrey
as the young immigrant, exudes a nice airiness about him, and is
fun with "Then I’d Be Satisfied For Life."
Esther H. Cohen also sings with a lovely voice and performs her one
big solo, "Jonah Man," while competently wielding a push
Radia Funna’s performance of "Ragtime Dance" is nicely loose
and provides a particularly fun moment.
The set design is bland, dominated by pale pink with a white bandstand
at the back of the stage. The decision to project early 20th century
era photographs (but not Civil War tintypes) onto the stage wall,
seems to have been an afterthought. The wall doesn’t make for an
screen; it has a hook jutting out from the middle of it and half the
audience facing away from it.
Despite some musical high points, "Tintypes" is a trifle of
a show. In an odd way the times work against it, as it seems
out of place during these difficult times. The current increased
in patriotism shines a brighter spotlight in our consciousness than
on anything red, white, and blue. But with the country in crisis,
one looks for signs of inspiration and strength. "Tintypes"
comes out looking sillier than it should.
— Jack Florek
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