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'Fanny' comes out of archives for a brief Encore!

Every so often, there is a Broadway-caliber revival at Encores! that justifies that silly exclamation point. (Think "Chicago," even "Finian's Rainbow.") But it would be a mistake to forget the original purpose of the series - to coax a forgotten musical out of the archive and give it the best five performances that taste, limited rehearsals and a real orchestra can buy.

"Fanny" sits fairly comfortably into the second category, although the cast is more uneven and the direction by Marc Bruni is more mundane than the series at its most sparkling. The musical, which ran from 1954 to 1956, is short on big-song recognition - unless you count my bratty childhood favorite, "Be Kind to Your Parents (Though They Don't Deserve It)."

But Harold Rome's score mixes rich old-European operetta waltzes with mambo and bizarre novelty filler. And although the compression of the book makes several characters seem downright incoherent through the years, it is interesting to see how much sentimentality S.N. Behrman and Joshua Logan ("South Pacific") were able to squeeze from Marcel Pagnol's grown-up six-hour film trilogy about clear-eyed love, frisky sex and the old-devil sea around Marseilles.

Despite the title, Fanny (originally played by Florence Henderson) is now the least satisfying character - portrayed here by the bland Elena Shaddow. She is adored by far more fascinating men. Fred Applegate is witty and touching as the rich old widower who marries the pregnant 20-year-old. James Snyder has dashing, endearing star quality as restless Marius, who gets to go to sea by befriending the town pimp (don't ask), while George Hearn, as Marius' father, makes up in finesse what his voice now lacks in freshness.

The choreography is unusually insipid. Bruni doesn't even try to suggest the South of France in his characters, though the underused Priscilla Lopez seems to amuse herself by channeling Gina Lollobrigida.

WHAT "Fanny"

WHEN | WHERE Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 6:30 p.m., New York City Center, 55th Street west of Sixth Avenue

INFO $25-$95; 212-581-1212; nycitycenter.org

BOTTOM LINE Thanks, but back to the archives

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