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‘Words, Words’ A retro night with Bacharach

What do you get when you fall in love? If you think of needles, problems, and popping bubbles, then you probably have a fondness for the late Burt Bacharach, Cinzano, the master of high-glass melody, chromatic harmony, brushed snare drum, and the great Hammond organ sound that evokes highballs. and major parties.

In 1968, Bacharach composed the first and only Broadway show, “Promises, Promises,” which was a clash of creative titans, given that the lyrics were by Hal David, the choreography was by Michael Bennett, and Jerry Orbach and Jill O’Hara were credited with the score. the roles and the book belonged to Neil Simon. The series is based on Billy Wilder’s film “The Apartment” and focuses on a young corporate entrepreneur whose suave and romantic adventures include lending his Manhattan home to flirtatious older colleagues. To say the show is thematically dated doesn’t convey how much contemporary musicals have changed in 55 years, even though few are funnier than this one. “Promises, Promises” was: Revised on Broadway in 2010 I doubt this will happen again unless a director like Daniel Fish with Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth does a dark deconstruction for now, which might not actually be a bad idea.

But Bacharach padded his score with spectacular numbers that became his standard; It was no easy feat, even as late as 1968. Apart from the signature songs I mentioned above, the series also includes “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Knowing When to Leave”. (my personal favorite) and “A House Is Not a Home.” In the intimate new Blank Theater production, all these songs are sung with honesty and panache; That’s reason enough for me to recommend Bacharach fans spend an evening in the small studio at the Greenhouse Theater Center, where performances take place just meters away. spectator.

Blank didn’t invent the idea of ​​a full musical postage stamp production of Chicago, but they do it brilliantly, and I admire the way director Danny Kapinos’ production lays out this 1960s-era material at face value, trusting that the audience will see it. it allows us to see it in the context of its own memory and thus see the pain behind a superficially whimsical romp. That’s high praise for Brandy Miller, who pours her heart and soul into Fran Kubelik, a decent young woman trying to deal with the betrayal of corporate men and their various supporters.

The night’s headliner is Rory Schrobilgen, who plays Chuck Baxter, a J. Pierrepont Finch-like character, in an all-night nod to “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” a hit from earlier that year. ten years. Chirpy enough to be likable and crafty enough, Schrobilgen is clearly a young Chicago talent to watch. Also very notable here are Stephanie Stockstill, who impressively plays the woman who knows the situation in the office, and the wickedly funny Kingsley Day, who plays an old doctor who is confused by all the romantic goings-on in his building and blessed with some real luck. Lots of one-liners by Simon.

Blank’s small band hits all the right stylistic notes, and Bacharach fans will enjoy the backing vocals here, all performed with doo-doo-doo aplomb.

There are two main flaws. One of these is the tendency towards exaggeration, which is not uncommon in store windows. This condition is far from chronic, but in such a small home it might be a good idea to dial back the scale. The other problem is that the show is much better in Act 1, which is full of fun and creativity, than in the uneven and slow Act 2, which feels like the show has run out of pace and rehearsal time.

Of course, this will likely improve as the performances continue, and I can already guarantee lots of laughs, retro tunes and seasonal bubbles.

Theater Cycle

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Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.

cjones5@chicagotribune.com

Review: “Promises, Promises” (3 stars)

When: until December 30

Where: Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.

Working time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Tickets: $41 at 773-404-7336 emptytheatrecompany.org

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