“Inventing Mary Martin” at the York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s (Closed Sunday May 25, 2014)

April 27, 2014 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
Conceived, Written, and Directed by Stephen Cole
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Stephen Cole’s “Inventing Mary Martin” is ninety minutes of adrenaline driven high energy singing and dancing devoted to remembering, honoring, and celebrating the life and career of the indefatigable Mary Martin. Broadway veteran Jason Graae narrates and hosts the tribute and is joined on the York Theatre stage by a trio of delightful divas: Cameron Adams, Lynne Halliday, and Emily Skinner. After the opening monologue and medley of Mary Martin hits, the cast, under Mr. Cole’s direction, launches into a non-stop succession of solos, duets, trios, and quartets all highlighting Ms. Martin’s successful Hollywood and Broadway careers.

And as the title suggests, this quartet of skilled singers, actors, and dancers address the importance of Mary Martin’s remarkable ability to invent herself, reinvent herself, and know when to allow herself to be reimagined by others.

The inimitable Jason Graae, who seems to shine on all facets of a well cut entertainer as actor, comedian, singer and dancer, keeps the show moving at a very quick pace with inextinguishable energy which was so commonly found in the Broadway musical stars of the 40s and 50s. His rendition of “Alice Is At It Again” which was actually cut from the show “Pacific 1860” because Ms. Martin thought it too risqué to perform, is an amazing example of an actor/singer understanding the storytelling of the song, making every lyric clear and impeccably delivered. The hysterical pantomime about fashion through the years which was done by Martin on The Ford 50th Anniversary Show for television is reconstructed by Mr. Graae and is nothing less than brilliant, with finesse and comic flair reminding us of the great Sid Ceaser.

To single out any one of the three delectable divas seems implausible, as each shines in their own special way. Lynne Halliday with her clear soprano delivers a sublime rendition of ”I’m A Stranger Here Myself” which captivates the audience and interprets the dramatic turn Ms. Martin exhibited in “A Touch of Venus.” Cameron Adams pulls out all the stops in her spin on “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” which becomes one of the showstoppers and audience favorites, as she inexhaustibly bumps, grinds and kicks her way through a rigorous dance routine while still managing to belt out the song’s mantra. Emily Skinner never ceases to amaze as she delivers one of the best renditions of “I Got Lost In His Arms” these critics have heard, bringing a sensual sensitivity to the lyric with beautiful interpretation and then conquers “Flaming Agnes” with her competent musical comedy ability and Broadway belt.

This is nonstop entertainment that is sure to please. The only flaw would be too much histrionics in the first half of the show that sometimes reveals irrelevant information that has no connection to the musical number that will be performed. The second half seems to gain strength in providing a better ratio of narration and song at time providing an intriguing integration.