“Marry Harry” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closed July 28, 2013)

Book by Jennifer Robbins
Music by Dan Martin
Lyrics by Michael Biello
Directed by Kent Nicholson
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Anyone who enjoys good old fashioned musical theater should certainly find comfort in a new endeavor titled “Marry Harry” which completed a successful run as part of NYMF at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre. This is a full two-hour production which tackles the impetuous plot of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl with a slightly modern day twist. Accessing sorted familiar themes like family values, soul searching youth, contemporary relationships in the age of social media and single parenting, the book is relevant but serves up nothing new or exciting, settling into a tepid, pleasant musical romp. The comical, all too familiar conflicts may keep your interest but would be better served if the pace was quicker and a bit more impulsive.

What is problematic about this new production (not by audience standards) is that the cast exceeds the material, trying in earnest to transcend the sometimes bland dialogue and lyrics; and they succeed, producing sincere, honest characters. One cannot ask for a more delightful ingénue than Jillian Louis defining Sherri with strong, well controlled vocals. She excels in her delivery of the song “Almost.” Leading man Robb Sapp as “Little Harry” creates an intelligent, vulnerable, all too likeable character who wins your heart and Sherri’s with charm and vocals that possess clear, pure tonal quality. Their duets please and strike the right balance. Annie Golden as Debbie does all but steal the show: bold, brassy and extremely warmhearted, she exhibits a natural comfort that can only come from an extremely well developed actor. She attacks her vocals head on, fearless and truthful with boundless energy and emotion. Jane Summerhays as Francine and Philip Hoffman as Big Harry bring much experience and talent as they carve their characters and fill the stage with comic flair. Special kudos go to Cameron Folmar who plays multiple roles with ease including his hysterical portrayal of Xuan the Vietnamese restaurant waiter in the musical number ‘The Date.”

The entire cast and excellent musicians should be complimented for producing a very pleasant two hours of entertainment. There are a few bumps and glitches that need to be worked out, most notable being a long first act with a weak ending. Hopefully work will continue to improve this project and it finds a successful future.