Corrections or additions?

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

June 30, 1999.

Review: `If Love Were All’

For some reason the theater never seems to tire

celebrating those legendary bosom buddies Sir Noel Coward and Gertrude

Lawrence. If we are to celebrate the Coward centenary with "If

Love Were

All" (a re-written, redesigned, and re-staged version of the

two-decades-old revue "Noel and Gertie"), isn’t it smashing

that Twiggy is playing Gertie?

What, you ask? How can the ’60s supermodel dare presume to measure

up to the incomparable internationally acclaimed Gertie, star of a

number of Coward shows and more? And, could we really expect

all-American song and dance man Harry Groener to provide us with a

satisfactory personification of the irrepressibly bemused and suavely

affected Noel?

Well, Twiggy’s husband Leigh Lawson, who also directs the show,

thought it was a good idea, and so do I.

We recall with pleasure how Twiggy captivated New York audiences in

"My One and Only." It wasn’t a fluke that Groener was a

sensation in "Crazy For You." Together Twiggy and Groener are

having

a glamorous and gleeful time capturing the passionately platonic

relationship between Coward and Lawrence. Although this show is based

on the

original entertainment devised by Sheridan Morley, much of the credit

for this show’s delight is due to Lawson’s adaptation and revisions

that have

turned a once pleasant evening into a positively glowing one.

That Twiggy is a dream walking and talking, if not always singing,

is not to diminish her prickly portrayal, a quality that Lawson might

well have had a strong say about. Lawrence herself was no great shakes

as a singer. More importantly, for every song, every scene, and every

everything else, Twiggy, like an Erte illustration come to life,

provocatively embodies the essence, demeanor, character and

temperament of the ’20s and ’30s. That we also get a glimmer of

Lawrence at her cheekiest

is more than any one could wish for. Familiar as I am with the Coward

canon and its many interpreters, Twiggy blew me away with a smoldering

"Twentieth Century Blues." Getting into a rather dazzling

patriotic mood, Twiggy shows off her time step and more in a hilarious

solo production number, "I Like America."

For his part, Groener is cleverest by also not attempting

impersonation.

With a slight nod to clipped speech, Groener gets just close enough

to Coward’s raffish style. He also looks dapper and dandy in the

obligatory smoking jacket, tux, and garb appropriate to the dramatic

scenes and skits, thanks to costume and set designer Tony Walton.

There is room

made for Groener to add his dancing prowess and elegance (so who cares

if Coward didn’t dance?) to the proceedings on numerous occasions.

As you might expect Groener makes show-stoppers out of the patter-song

"Mad Dogs and Englishmen," and "Don’t Put Your Daughter

on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington," but also finds uncharted nuances

in classics "Poor Little Rich Girl," and the top hat and

tap-happy (snappily choreographed by Niki Harris) "Younger

Generation."

The evening spins seamlessly from scene to song to

reminiscence with an emphasis placed on the opening scene from

"Private

Lives" and the vaudeville section from "Tonight at 8:30."

The former is a charmer and the latter a howl, given the entrancing

rapport these two have created. Bits from "Brief Encounter"

and "Blithe

Spirit" provide other blissful moments. When he is not in a scene,

Groener delivers the snappy bon mots punctuated narrative from

a piano bench. Four musicians provide neat support.

As the musical is taken from Coward’s letters and other writings,

we get glimpses into Coward’s and Lawrence’s parallel and conjoined

careers. If you are not a purist, you won’t complain how some familiar

songs are used without regard to their source but rather as a means

to augment scenes and embroider the narrative. Tony Walton has

embroidered the staircase-clad stage in handsome black and silver

Deco. But, best of all he has dressed up Twiggy "as if love were

all."

HHH

— Simon Saltzman

If Love Were All, Lucille Lortell, 121 Christopher Street,

800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $45 & $55.


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