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New York Review: `Little Me’

This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

November 25, 1998. All rights reserved.

The scheduled opening night for "Little Me"

had to be postponed a few days when it was discovered that David

Gallo’s

cleverly revolving setting was too big for the stage of the Roundabout

Theater. After seeing Martin Short hilariously portray eight wildly

diverse characters in this constantly rib-tickling revival of the

Cy Coleman (music), Carolyn Leigh (lyrics), Neil Simon (book), 1962

musical, may I submit that it is Short who is too big for the

Roundabout

— or perhaps for any conventional Broadway stage.

Originally conceived as a vehicle for the great television comedy

star Sid Caesar, "Little Me" is a sparkling, song-sprinkled,

decidedly star-customized farce that Simon based on the 1961 fictional

memoirs by Patrick Dennis (of "Auntie Mame" fame). Filled

with frenetically paced, episode-propelled skits and

vaudeville-empowered

shtick (courtesy of the pre-"Barefoot in the Park" Simon),

"Little Me" proved a tour-de-force for Caesar, a first-class

comedian.

Now we’ve waited some 36 years for the kind of deliriously dominating

performance that Short brings to this little gem of a musical comedy.

Be prepared to let yourself go, laugh loud and long, as Short

shamelessly

whips up a virtual cornucopia of often campy but also oddly endearing

caricatures.

You will be hard pressed to single out your favorite among Short’s

unforgettable characters. They include Noble Eggleston, a nerdish

rich mommy’s boy who falls in love with Belle, a girl from "The

Other Side of the Tracks"; Amos Pinchely, the meanest banker in

the world with a heart "Deep Down Inside"; Benny Buchsbaum,

one half of the Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee-like talent agents

Buchsbaum

and Buchsbaum (the other brother Bernie is played by the equally funny

Michael McGrath, who also transforms himself in a variety of

delightful

roles).

Then there’s Val du Val, the suave Parisian entertainer who suffers

from chronic amnesia; Otto Schnitzler, a despotic whip-wielding German

movie director; Fred Poitrine, a myopic soldier; and Prince Cherney,

an ailing middle-European monarch who finds it impossible to die,

especially when the peasants are having such a good time.

With his nimble, ebullient body language and flexible facial

dexterity,

Short may remind some old-timers of the great Eddy Cantor. But the

more chameleon-like Short actually sings and dances better than Cantor

and probably many other former name performers who once knew what

it meant to take charge and rule the stage. Short hits only home-runs

with his portion of the lilting and witty Coleman and Leigh score,

particularly as a gargle-voiced chanteur in "Boom Boom," a

side-splitting take-off on a tacky Parisian nightclub act, and

"Goodbye,"

a send-up of protracted operetta finales.

Perhaps best of all is the charmingly danced and sung, "Real Live

Girl," which becomes a full-scale production number for the

poignantly

inept Fred, who unwittingly becomes Belle’s husband, and the World

War I doughboys at the front. There is an outrageously funny parody

of the Titanic disaster, in which the reappearing Noble gives a crash

course in swimming to the passengers aboard the sinking Gigantic.

This ends with an apt duet for Noble and Belle, "I’m Sinking of

You."

Despite his name, Short is not the "Little Me"

of the title but most of the major supporting characters who cross

paths with the show’s heroine, Belle Poitrine, nee Schlumpfert, in

her lifelong quest for wealth, culture, and social position. The

flimsy

excuse of a story is held together by Belle’s memoirs, asides given

as an innocently risque narrative amid a series of

cleavage-commemorating

postures.

Faith Prince, whose award-winning Miss Adelaide in "Guys and

Dolls,"

and her other stellar Broadway appearances have showcased her as

show-stopping

presence, is inexplicably let down here by director and choreographer

Rob Marshall, who seems to have let her flounder in a sea of scene

stealers. Playing both the younger and older Belle, Prince simply

can’t compete with the more sharply defined performances around her.

Although one can see how Prince might be thought of as perfect for

Belle, she appears unfocused, and as uncomfortable in the role as

she does in designer Ann Hould-Ward’s unflattering costumes. However,

Prince, a performer you want to love regardless, discharges the songs,

in particular her solo "Poor Little Hollywood Star," with

zest. A little more help from Marshall could conceivably still push

Prince into the more highly charged comical sphere of her peers.

Marshall’s basic direction of the entire show is as tight, as fluid,

and as manic as an old time TV variety show like "Your Show of

Shows." Marshall, who re-choreographed the current hit

"Cabaret,"

has added some wonderfully satiric conceits to the goofy sweet 16

party number "The Rich Kids Rag," and given a amusingly

seductive

spin to the solo "I’ve Got Your Number," sensationally danced

as a macho male strip by Michael Park. Another outstanding comic turn

or two comes from Ruth Williamson, as Belle’s mother, a sassy member

of the oldest profession, and also as the haughty blue-blood, Mrs.

Eggleston. But it is ultimately Short who makes "Little Me"

add up to more than the sum of the parts. HHH

— Simon Saltzman

Little Me, Roundabout Theater, Stage Right, 1530 Broadway

at 45, 212-719-1300. $75. To February 7.

Top Of Page
On Broadway

The key: HHHH Don’t miss; HHH

You won’t feel cheated;

HH Maybe you should have stayed home;

H Don’t blame us.

Art HH Royale, 242 West 45. Tony winner

for best

play.

Beauty and the Beast HHH Palace, Broadway

at 47.

Ticketmaster.

Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk

HHHH, Ambassador,

219 West 49.

Cabaret HHH Studio 54, 254 West 54,

800-432-7250.

Tony’s best in its new home.

Cats HHH Winter Garden, 50 & Broadway.

Chicago HHHH Shubert, 225 West 44.

Electra, Barrymore, 243 West 47. Zoe Wanamaker as seen

at McCarter Theater.

Fool Moon, Brooks Atkinson, 256 West 47. Bill Irwin &

David Shiner. Ticketmaster.

Footloose, Richard Rodgers, 226 West 46. Ticketmaster.

Previews.

Getting and Spending HH Helen Hayes, 44

and Broadway.

Jekyll & Hyde HH Plymouth, 236 West 45.

Les Miserables HHH Imperial, 249 West 45.

Miss Saigon HHHH Broadway, 53 and

Broadway.

On the Town, Gershwin, 222 West 51. Ticketmaster.

Parade, Vivian Beaumont, 150 West 65. Previews.

Peter Pan, Marquis, Broadway & 45. Cathy Rigby flies.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Sixth Avenue & 50,

212-307-1000.

Ragtime HHHH Ford Center, 42 between 7

and 8

Avenue. Ticketmaster. Winner of four Tonys.

Rent HHHH Nederlander, 208 West 41.

Ticketmaster.

Sandra Bernhard: I’m Still Here… Dammit! Booth, 222

West 45.

Side Man HHH Golden, 252 West 45.

Smokey Joe’s Cafe HH Virginia, 245 West

52.

Swan Lake HHH Neil Simon, 250 West 52.

Ticketmaster.

By Matthew Bourne.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane HH Walter

Kerr, 219

West 48.

The Blue Room, Cort, 138 West 48. Nicole Kidman and Iain

Glen. Previews.

The Lion King HHHH New Amsterdam,

Broadway &

42. 212-307-4747.

The Phantom of the Opera HHH Majestic,

247 West

44.

The Scarlet Pimpernel Minskoff, 200 West 45.

Ticketmaster.

Newly-revived.

The Sound of Music HH Martin Beck, 302

West 45.

Titanic HHHH Lunt-Fontanne, 205 West

46. Ticketmaster.

Top Of Page
Ticket Numbers

Unless otherwise noted, all Broadway reservations can be made

through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. For

Ticketmaster

listings call 800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100.

For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music,

and dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818. The TKTS same-day,

half-price

ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway & 47th) is open daily, 3 p.m.

to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for Wednesday

and Saturday matinees; and noon to closing for Sunday matinees. The

lower Manhattan booth, at 2 World Trade Center, is open Monday-Friday,

11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; closed Sunday.

Cash or travelers’ checks only. Visit TKTS at: www.tdf.org.

Top Of Page
Off-Broadway

A Couple of Blaguards, Triad, 158 West 72. By Frank

McCourt.

Previews.

A Night in November HHH Douglas Fairbanks,

432 West

42.

All Under Heaven, Century, 111 East 15. Valerie Harper

as Pearl Buck.

Behind the Counter with Mussolini, Theater at St. Peter’s

Church, Lexington at 54, 212-935-5820.

Big Apple Circus, Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center,

212-721-6500.

Blue Man Group HHHH Astor Place, 434

Lafayette,

212-254-4370.

Chaim’s Love Song, Greenwald, 307 West 26.

Collected Stories HHH Lucille Lortel, 121

Christopher.

Uta Hagen.

Communicating Doors HH Variety Arts,

110 Third.

Corpus Christi HH Manhattan Theater

Club, 131

West 55, 212-581-1212. Terrence McNally’s latest.

De La Guarda HH Daryl Roth, 20 Union

Square East.

From Argentina, "Villa Villa."

Dinah Was HHH Gramercy, 127 East 23.

The Dinah

Washington story. Ticketmaster.

Duet!, Actors’ Playhouse, 100 Seventh Avenue.

Eight!, Tribeca Playhouse, 111 Reade.

Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up! Stardust, Broadway & 51.

Freedomland, Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch HHH Jane

Street Theater,

113 Jane.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

HH, Westside,

407 West 43.

Impossible Marriage HHH Roundabout,

1530 Broadway

at 45. Holly Hunter.

Killer Joe, Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam. Scott Glenn and

Amanda Plummer.

Late Nite Catechism, St. Luke’s Church, 308 West 46,

800-432-7250.

Mercy, Vineyard, 108 East 15. By Laura Cahill.

Nunsense A-Men, 47 Street Theater, 304 West 46.

Over the River & Through the Woods, Houseman, 450 West

42.

Perfect Crime, Duffy, 1553 Broadway.

Power Plays, Promenade, Broadway & 76.

R & J HHH Houseman Studio, 450 West 42,

212-354-2220.

A Romeo & Juliet story.

Sakina’s Restaurant, American Place, 111 West 46.

Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know, Triad, 158 West

72, 212-799-4599.

Stomp HHHH Orpheum, Second Avenue at 8.

Ticketmaster.

Stop Kiss, Public, 425 Lafayette.

Symphonie Fantastique, Here Arts, 145 Avenue of Americas,

212-647-0202. Puppets of Basil Twist.

The Fantasticks, 181 Sullivan Street Playhouse.

Ticketmaster.

The Memory of Water, City Center, 131 West 55.

The Mystery of Irma Vep HHH Westside, 407

West 43.

The Old Settler, Primary Stages, 354 West 45,

212-333-4052.

John Henry Redwood’s McCarter premiere.

The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, Public, 424 Lafayette. By Arthur

Miller.

The Shaughraun, Irish Repertory, 132 West 22,

212-727-2737.

This is Our Youth, Second Stage, Broadway at 76.

Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding HHH St. Luke’s

Church, 308

West 46.

Trainspotting, Players, 115 MacDougal. From the novel

by Irvine Welsh.

Waiting for Godot, Classic Stage, 136 East 13.

What We Don’t Confess, Producers Club, 358 West 44,

212-642-6350.

Wit HHHH MCC, 120 West 28,

212-727-7765. With

Kathleen Chalfant.

Zora Neale Hurston, American Place, 111 West 46. By

Laurence

Holder.

— Simon Saltzman

Top Of Page
Ticket Numbers

Unless otherwise noted, all Broadway reservations can be made

through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. For

Ticketmaster

listings call 800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100.


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