Corrections or additions?
This review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the October 15,
2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
In New York: `The Thing About Men’
Billed as a "musical comedy affair," "The
Thing About Men" is a musical based on a 1988 German film released
in the U.S. as "Men." The show’s book and lyric writer Joe
DiPietro is again collaborating with "I Love You, You’re Perfect,
Now Change" composer Jimmy Roberts. The theme is, if it’s good
for the goose it’s good for the gander, and that three in love can
be as happy as two.
A previous incarnation of this musical, also called "Men,"
played three years ago at the American Stage Company in Teaneck where
I first had the opportunity to see it. The thing about the show now
is that it’s better than it was. But is that good enough?
What DiPietro and Roberts don’t seem to have realized is that
face and process marital infidelity a lot differently than do
and that any humor or lesson derived from such situations has to be
reinvented to find its truth and reality. When philandering
man Tom (Marc Kudisch) discovers that the wife Lucy (Leah Hocking),
whom he has assumed is faithful, is having an affair, he takes it
rather hard. Although Tom has been recklessly and heedlessly fooling
around for years, most recently with his secretary, he simply cannot
tolerate the idea of his wife in someone else’s arms. The fact that
the "someone else" turns out to be Sebastian (Ron Bohmer)
— a Greenwich Village-type artist with long hair a la Fabio, who
hasn’t sold a painting in years — hurts his ego.
Tom’s desire to discover the identity of Lucy’s lover is so strong
that he takes an extended leave of absence from his job. He moves
out of his home and abruptly ends his affair with his secretary. After
trailing the lovers, Tom discovers that Sebastian’s female roommate
and principal rent-payer has left him high and dry. When Tom discovers
that Sebastian, who scrimps along as a hot dog vendor, needs a new
roommate with bucks, he comes to the rescue. Of course Sebastian
know who Tom is.
Tom wants to watch Sebastian up close and foil his romantic meetings
with Lucy. As Tom and Sebastian’s buddy-buddy relationship grows,
so does Tom’s inane and implausible plan to win Lucy back by changing
Sebastian into the ambitious, well-groomed man that he himself was
when Lucy met him. The "Pygmalion" thing again, but without
the wit, satire or sexy situations that give such European-styled
dalliances their appeal. For Americans, the amoral and immoral
of spouses doesn’t sit very well, especially when neither, as in this
case, seem the least bit dishonored or disconcerted by their actions.
In the show’s defense, the fast-paced antics devised
by director Mark Clements are never less than resourceful and always
accomplished with vim and vigor. The artful set design by Richard
Hoover that uses six panels for projections, some animated, is a
However, Roberts’ score, although competently supported by DiPietro’s
better lyrics, merely sounds like clusters of tonal notes all
Marc Kudisch, who has previously impressed me on Broadway in
Modern Millie" and "Bells Are Ringing," has a great
voice and is one of the most virile and attractive musical theater
performers around. As the disconsolate but undefeatable Tom, Kudisch
is merely terrific, with and without the gorilla head he wears as
a disguise in the musical’s funniest scene. Leah Hocking is taking
a big step up after "Dance of the Vampires." As the
Lucy, she brings verve and a warm edge to the chaotic proceedings.
Her best line, when asked by Tom if her lover is good in bed: "Who
has an affair with someone who isn’t good in bed?"
The supporting performances by Daniel Reichard and Jennifer Simard,
who appear throughout as various critics, commentators, and other
whimsically prescribed characters, are purposefully and amusingly
engaged. Two stars. You won’t feel cheated.
— Simon Saltzman
at 76th Street, New York. $45 to $65. Tele-Charge, 800-432-7250 or
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