“Babes in Arms” is a Rodgers & Hart musical comedy from 1937 about a group of small-town Long Island teenagers who put on a show in a barn to avoid being sent to a work farm by the …
“Babes in Arms” is a Rodgers & Hart musical comedy from 1937 about a group of small-town Long Island teenagers who put on a show in a barn to avoid being sent to a work farm by the town sheriff when their actor parents go on the road to earn some money by reviving vaudeville. The film version, released in 1939, starred Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. It’s interesting that the movie version kept only two songs from the stage version (“When or Where” and “Babes in Arms”), but the songs from the stage musical like “My Funny Valentine”, “The Lady is a Tramp” and “Johnny One Note” are clearly the ones that have continued to live on in our memories.
A very cool side note to this production is that a newly revised script had been written by Tony Award Nominee Douglas Carter Beane and this Forestburgh Playhouse presentation is the world premiere of that new script. It was pretty neat to hear that Mr. Beane (along with others from his production team) were present that opening night in our Miracle in the Woods in Sullivan County, USA. Quite impressive, Mr. Franklin Trapp!
Onto the show! This revival is the prototypical “Hey, kids, let's put on a show” musical. The playhouse really does set the perfect stage for this barn in the woods story (in Long Island! Yes, back in the days when LI was considered the boonies!) Tim Golebiewski’s very simple, but expansive set creates the airy barn. His clever use of clothes lines provided laundry like sliders for various projected images.
This performance troupe is brimming with high-spirited energy. Choreographer Ellenore Scott has gone to great lengths to instill that “how to look like the hard work is fun” perception into every performer. Each dancer was smiling ear to ear, and their delight was contagious. Singling out performers is difficult because the ensemble is exceptional, but I’ll mention a couple of groups. The gals, in general, definitely out boom the guys! The boys are fabulous, but these girls take it over the edge in numbers like “Way Out West”, My Funny Valentine”, “Johnny One Note”, and “The Lady is a Tramp”. However, two of the fellas outdanced their comrades. Jeffrey Marc Alkins as Marshall and M.L. Catwell as his brother, Gus tear up the barn floorboards in their number “Light on Our Feet”. And Mr. Alkins further spellbinds us with his dance performance in the “Imagine Ballet”. There are lots of other great dance numbers, but these stood out for me.
Again, I have to clarify that these are noteworthy to mention, but there are other memorable numbers performed by fantastic voices that blow the lid off the place.
This all happens because of the aforementioned re-writer Douglas Carter Beane who also directed this Forestburgh production. It’s obvious that this is his baby. His detail to every move, every scene change, every pause is blatantly apparent. He directs this “show within a show” enthusiastically and still manages to teach a few lessons along the way. Important lessons, especially in today’s world and that’s what makes this dated storyline relevant and still fun today!
“Babes in Arms” runs through September 5, 2021. Tickets and information are available at the box office by calling (845) 794-1194 or going to forestburghplayhouse.org.
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