Book by Mark Childers and Peter J. Loewy
Directed by Peter J. Loewy
Musical direction by David Nagy
Full Life of Kaye Comes up Empty
Which is better, to be old enough to remember having seen Danny Kaye on
film or in person, or to be so young that that there is no way to compare
the charismatic comic/singer/actor/dancer with his portrayer? It may be
better to be so innocent that the performances are new to the viewer.
Certainly, it is very difficult for anyone playing the part of Kaye to
recreate his charisma. However, that is not to say that Josh Kolb did not
make a noble effort in a nearly impossible task. He is joined by Kimberly
Abrams as Sylvia Fine, initially Kaye’s rather dowdy, strong,
song-writing partner, and ultimately his suffocating wife; Ashley Brooke
as the many women in his life, including Eve Arden, Vivian Leigh and Kitty
Carlisle, and Brad Rakushin as Billy Rose, Cole Porter, and Sam Goldwyn.
The musical is a pastiche of Kaye on and off stage, with little in tone or
impact to differentiate between the two. The best parts include his most
famous performances of such songs as “Deenah,” “Stanislavsky, ” “Anatole
of Paris,” “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” and “Minnie the Moocher.” His best
on-stage moment is an emotional one with wife Sylvia after discussing the
possibility of children, when they embrace and dance, tenderly and
suggestively, to “Ballin’ the Jack.”
However, the intervals between the songs tend to be uninteresting, even
though they deal with such heated topics his volatile marriage and his
childhood trauma when loss of his mother might explain his own cold
parenting. And, of course, there is also his affair with Eve Arden. As
these are presented here — with two-dimensional, often clichéd
characterizations — they don’t really create a cohesive, essential drama.
The second act is stronger than the first, and the closing number, with
Kolb, in colorful costume, skipping and cavorting around the stage as “The
Maladjusted Jester” does capture — at least for a moment — the bubbling
joy of the great entertainer. One leaves the theater with at least that
glimpse of what once was.
Beverly Friend, PHD, Member American Theater Critics Assn.
Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Margate, Fl
33065.www.stagedoorfl.org 954-344-7765 .Tickets $38-42 , 8 p.m. Friday
and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, through April 9.