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A CurtainUp DC  Feature
Some Thoughts on Over and Over

by Susan Davidson

There is a lot of talent on stage in Over & Over, the new musical at Arlington, Virginia's 136-seat Signature Theatre.  Some of John Kander's music is  pleasant; some of Fred Ebb's lyrics are amusing and director Eric Schaeffer has the actors do some funny bits of shtick. But Over & Over never overcomes  its basic problem which is the play on which it is based, Thornton Wilder's The Skin Of Our Teeth.  The musical's book, by Joseph Stein, of Fiddler on the Roof and Your Show of Shows fame, is more television comedy circa the 1950's than dialogue and humor suited to the end-of-this-millenium. It is as though the artistic team responsible for Over & Over set out to make an omelet and ended up with scrambled eggs.

Over & Over is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus and their godawful kids, i.e. Everyfamily, as they are challenged by apocolyptic events: the Ice Age, the Flood, fire, and so on.  And yet the human race survives, by the skin of our teeth. That's the through line.

The musical Over & Over, therefore, seems thematically dated. We have only to turn on television news  in this age of genocide, epidemics of fatal diseases, loose nukes and political and economic instability to see images and hear stories that are far more immediate and real than the geologic, biblical, and historical ones portrayed on stage. And the gallows humor that accompanies the news comes at us all the time, via mass media.

Then why does this particular satire fail? Because it is no more than a series of revue-like skits that aren't quite funny enough.

Some wonderful moments elicit strong laughter.  David Garrison as Mr. Antrobus is a dead ringer for Groucho Marx, not just in looks but exquisite comic timing; Mario Cantone as the Stage Manager is very camp; and Dorothy Loudon as the Virgin Mary, leader of a brass band, and all round knock-about vaudevillian, is a hoot. Her soft shoe brings down the house. So does her exit line, stepping out of character (and at that point one is not too sure who her character is) to say that she deserves better material.  True, but trooper that she is, she makes the most of the material she's got.

Ironically, if this production belongs to anyone, that would be Bebe Neuwirth's last-minute replacement.  With a couple of Broadway credits to her name already, Scott is a very gifted musical comedy performer who will survive Over & Over, sunny side up.

Book by Joseph Stein, based on The Skin Of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed by Eric D. Schaeffer
starring Mario Cantone, Linda Emond, David Garrison, Megan Lawrence, Jim Newman, Sherie Scott, Charon Wilkins, and Dorothy Loudon.
With Hugh Nees, Bruce Nelson, Lawrence Redmond, Thomas Adrian Simpson, Karl Christian, Kenneth J. Ewing Jr., Daniel P. Felton, Johanna Gerry, Jason Gilbert, Marc Oka, Richard Pelzman, Erika Lynn Rupli, Jennifer Swiderski, and R. Scott Thompson.
Set design: Lou Stancari
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Costume Design: Anne Kennedy
Sound Design: David Maddox
Orchestrations by Michael Gibson
Conductor/Dance Arrangements: Jim Laev
Musical Director: Patrick Vaccariello
Choreographed by Bob Avian
Signature Theatre, 3806 S. Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington (703) 218-6500. 
Performances, all of which are sold out, continue through  February 21, 1999. Any tickets which become available will be sold one hour prior to each performance, at the theater box office. 
Reviewed by Susan Davidson, February 10, 1999. 

©Copyright February 1999, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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