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Broadway Bound? "Marty" Comes to Boston

Walking into the Huntington Theatre Sunday night, I had very high hopes. I was attending a performance of “Marty,” a new musical touted to be using Boston as a warming ground before moving to Broadway.

“Marty” has all the pedigree one could hope for in a new musical. The two-time Tony nominee, John C. Reilly (The Good Girl, Magnolia), plays Marty. The play’s writer is Rupert Holmes (“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”), while the music and lyrics are composed by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams (“Annie”, “Bye Bye Birdie”). The show is choreographed by Robert Ashford (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”).

While it isn’t, in my opinion, the best or most original musical ever produced, “Marty” is an entertaining work. The musical, which takes place in the Bronx in the 1950s, follows the 34-year old butcher, Marty Piletti, through the initial rocky stages of his courtship with Clara, a studious and equally lonely woman. The story follows a predictable route, describing Marty’s loneliness, his family and friend’s quest to find him a “tomato,” and the jealousy that overcomes his friends and family when he does finally meet a woman. What is unique about the story is its focus on the average man. A friend commented that “it’s not often you see an unattractive man in the lead role.”

Overall the show was enjoyable, but at times was underdeveloped. The music, while catchy and reminiscent of 1950s doo-wop, was repetitious and had lost its freshness by the end. Reilly’s acting was strong, yet his voice often sounded as if he had not warmed up sufficiently. The true performance talent fell to Clara, Anne Torsiglieri, and to Marty’s mother and aunt, who provided comic relief. The scarce dance routines peaked in the second act with the reprise of “Saturday Night Girl,” a number in which Marty’s friends brag about their (non-existent) Saturday night conquests.

While “Marty” has merit, I doubt it will be the next Broadway hit. With Broadway favoring revivals and heavily choreographed productions, the simple story of “Marty” might get lost in the shuffle.

Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston (617-266-0800), through November 24. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday (no Tuesday performance November 5, but there are Wednesday 2 p.m. matinees on November 6 and 13), at 8 p.m. on Friday, at 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, and at 2 and 7 p.m. (evening performance October 27 and November 3 only) on Sunday.

November 4, 2002
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