WHAT “Hey, Look Me Over!”
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, City Center, 131 W. 55th St.
INFO $35-$135; 212-581-1212, nycitycenter.org
BOTTOM LINE Encores! mashup of numbers from little-known shows — and one BIG surprise!
They pulled off quite the shocker at City Center the other night.
But let’s save that for the end, just as the creators of “Hey, Look Me Over!” did in presenting this delightful original revue highlighting numbers from shows that have yet to be featured in 25 years of Encores!
To mark the anniversary season, Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel pulled together scenes and songs from a disparate bunch of shows that, as he said in an interview with Playbill, “touch on so many American archetypes.”
Our guide for the evening is Bob Martin, the original Man in Chair from “The Drowsy Chaperone,” taking on the role of an Encores! regular unhappy with some “shocking omissions” (yes, “Drowsy” among them). “Fine, you do it,” he’s told, and so he does, with a heavy dose of wry wit, starting with a scene from Cy Coleman’s “Wildcat” and the title song performed by Carolee Carmello and Britney Coleman.
That was just the beginning of a parade of musical theater superstars. Vanessa Williams sizzled in a couple of numbers from Harold Arlen’s “Jamaica;” Judy Kuhn and Reed Birney (he sings!) were heartwarming in the lovely “Once Upon a Time” from Charles Strouse’s “All American;” Douglas Sills killed it in “Movies Were Movies” from Jerry Herman’s “Mack & Mabel,” and Bebe Neuwirth brought out her comedic chops in “Why Do the Wrong People Travel” from Noël Coward’s “Sail Away.”
As with any revue, some of the material didn’t work. The little-known Frank Loesser musical “Greenwillow” (one of his “lesser musicals,” quipped Man in Chair) dragged until Clifton Duncan brought down the house with “Never Will I Marry.” Herman’s “Milk and Honey” went on too long but was saved by the dancers in “Independence Day Hora.” Minor missteps were redeemed with the glorious encore from Irving Berlin’s “Miss Liberty,” with the company performing “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,” the song taken from the famed Emma Lazarus sonnet, “The New Colossus.”
Oh, right . . . the shocker. Per the program, the last scene’s iconic “Give My Regards to Broadway” from “George M!” was to be performed by hoofer Clyde Alves. The scene was set and the cue delivered: “Any messages from back home, Johnny?” A small voice from stage right said, “Yeah . . . one.” It took a few seconds for it to sink in. That voice belonged to Joel Grey, the original George M., who joined the company in delivering the number with the showstopping panache it demands. The audience erupted.