LITTLE ME at 42nd Street Moon is bright, sassy and ‘dressed to the nines’.

Jason Graae stars as all the men who woo the irresistible
“Belle Poitrine” (Sharon Rietkerk) in LITTLE ME
at 42nd Street Moon Photo Credit: David Allen

LITTLE ME: Musical Comedy. Book by Neil Simon. Music by Cy Coleman. Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh. Based on the novel by Patrick Dennis. Directed by Eric Inman. Music Direction by Brandon Adams. Choreography by Staci Arriaga. 42nd Street Moon, The Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street between Battery and Front Streets in San Francisco. 415-255-8207 or   May 1 – 19, 2013

LITTLE ME at 42nd Street Moon is bright, sassy and ‘dressed to the nines’.

To end their 20th season, the much lauded 42nd Street Moon has mounted the 50 year old star vehicle Little Me with a top notch cast dressed in a plethora of costumes that must have strained their budget. Where Sid Caesar was the original star in the 1962 Broadway production, our intrepid local group has imported the charming, versatile Jason Graae from the Southland to handle the multiple roles demanded by the script.

Jason is a whirlwind of activity playing seven different roles with an occasional hitch that he molds into the character he is playing at that specific moment with a wink and a nod to the audience. He is not the only one playing multiple roles since the ensemble group prances and dances on and off stage as non-gender specific characters with costumes to match. Our own local favorite Darlene Popovic first appears in a tight fitting red gown as “Momma” and later is a hit as Bernie Buschbaum to strut her stuff in a  ‘buck and wing’ show stopper “Be a Performer” with Zack Thomas Wilde as her/his side kick Benny.

Although Jason Graae is superb in the star vehicle roles of Noble Eggleston, Mr. Pinchley, Val Du Val, Fred Poitrine, Otto Schnitzler, Prince Cherney and Noble Junior he is matched line for line by the gorgeous Sharon Rietkerk (Belle Baby) and Teressa Byrne (Miss Poitrine Today) who play only one character.

But we are getting ahead of who, what, where and when of the original production. First produced in 1962 as a star vehicle for Sid Caesar, Little Me won two Tony Awards. It seems that Patrick Dennis (a pseudonym) of Auntie Mame fame wrote a parody of the autobiographical books that are the rage for the famous and not-so-famous society types entitled:  “Little Me: The Intimate Memoirs of the Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television.”  It tells the story of social climbing Belle Poitrine, born on the wrong side of the tracks in Venezuela, Illinois who seeks, and gains “wealth, culture, and social position.”

Even before the book was published, and became a best-seller, producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin optioned it for the stage and brought aboard Neil Simon on the book, Cy Coleman as composer, and Carolyn Leigh as lyricist. It lasted for only 257 performances on Broadway and quoting Artistic Director Greg MacKellan “And then it was over. . .perhaps it had too satirical and edge for Broadway audiences at the time.” There were two other mountings of the show (1982 and 1999) that were not too successful in the U. S. but did big business in London

Mackellen who is a stickler for producing the ‘lost musicals’ in their original format has used the 1962 version that runs two hours and forty minutes with intermission and there’s the rub. Maintaining audience interest with humor piled on humor runs a little thin. This is not a criticism but an observation that may explain the abbreviated Broadway run.

There is lot to like beginning with the superb acting, fine singing, excellent staging, memorable musical numbers (“Real Live Girl”, “I’ve Got Your Number”, “On the Other Side of the Tracks”, and “To Be a Performer”), energetic dancing and costumes to die for.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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