Say hello to “The Goodbye Girl,” Neil Simon’s romantic musical comedy running weekends through Saturday, June 2, at Hopewell’s Off-Broadstreet Theater. The stage show is based on Simon’s popular film of 1977 written for Marsha Mason, Simon’s wife at the time. Simon also wrote the book for the stage play. The music is by Marvin Hamlisch, the lyrics with their clever, amusing rhyming by David Zippel. A live band, led by Christopher Madison, accompanies the show’s songs and dances.
If you’re not familiar with the story you might wonder from the comedy’s title whether it is men doing the jilting or the girl. The original play is 30 years old, and the world has changed mightily, but the situation is timeless. This is the story of Paula (Gabrielle Visser Trumbull), a young-ish middle-aged woman, a dancer now unemployed, and single mother of a 12-year old daughter, Lucy (Alexandria Nudo). Paula returns home one day to find the ex-live-in boyfriend has gone to California for a movie role without them, leaving only a note and none of the money he owes her. Paula is shaken and heartsick — boyfriends have frequently jilted her before — and she vows to have nothing more to do with actors.
The Ex has also sublet the apartment, as landlady Mrs. Crosby (Yolanda) announces. Elliot (Patrick Andrae), the sublet-ee, arrives with lease in hand. Attempts by Paula to keep him out, including barking like a dog, fail and Elliot gets into the apartment. He’s an actor with a job waiting for him in New York and needs a place to sleep. Paula is too broke to move so Elliot moves into the room with the “Barbie”-like wallpaper and will bankroll the apartment.
Elliot has his own quirks, certainly — sleeps naked, plays the guitar, and meditates chanting “Ohm” early in the morning (his retort: “You bark like a dog at night.”) Elliot and Paula each lay down their rules for sharing the apartment.
The turning point in Elliot and Paula’s relationship comes when he is offered a job he can’t turn down playing Richard III. The director insists he play Richard as a woman. Dressed in a red satin ruffled shirt with a hump and a bad leg, Elliot’s performance is, of course, a disaster. While suffering through the scathing reviews, they each discover the other is not such a bad person. Daughter Lucy is the first to discover their growing fondness.
At an intimate rooftop party with just the two of them Elliot asks Paula to marry him. Paula agrees but says Lucy must agree too. How does Elliot “propose” to Lucy? He tells her he wants to be her Dad. Her response: “The job is open since I was born.”
But things do not remain rosy and another goodbye is in the offing.
This production is designed and directed by Robert Thick. The stage is divided into two halves. The more realistic half is Paula’s apartment (or so she thinks); the other half, with several tall, movable panels, is, variously, indoors or out, a dance studio, an Off-Off Broadway Theater, Central Park, the rooftop of the building, a schoolyard, and more.
Paula (Trumbull) has a strong, excellent soprano voice to add to her convincing acting and dancing, and much of the musical is singing that moves the plot. Elliot (Andrae) is a fine actor. Lucy (Nudo) is a find: poised, precocious, never a brat, and always captivating. She’s been performing in musical theater for the last five years. Others in the cast (Alison Quarioli, Geoffrey Barber, Tom Orr, Cara Mitchell) play several brief roles, or sing, dance, and act with the leads. The choreography by Julia Thick is fast-moving and engaging. Costumes are by Ann Raymond — the ridiculous red satin top with ruffles on Richard III (with a hump) is a laugh in itself. These elements combine for a fine evening of theater; definitely a “good buy.”
“The Goodbye Girl,” through Saturday, June 2, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell, . www.off-broadstreet.com. Neil Simon’s romantic comedy, paired with music by Marvin Hamlisch, is based on the movie. A single mother, her daughter, and an actor share an apartment. $25.50 to $27.25. 609-466-2766