You have the title song, one of the best love ballads (“All Through the Night”), a sexy torch song (“I Get a Kick Out of You”), a song filled with wonderful rhyming pairs (“You’re the Top”) and a Sunday-go-to-meetin’ showstopper (“Blow, Gabriel, Blow”) just for starters.
The show itself is so perfect that all Music Circus director and choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge really had to do was to get a bunch of actors who could follow direction and carry a tune and she’d have a hit on her hands.
But no, she did much more. She got a first-rate cast that takes this show out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
The indomitable Vicki Lewis plays big, brassy nightclub evangelist Reno Sweeney. a role originally written for Ethel Merman. Porter actually gave almost all the dynamite songs to Merman, so Lewis had big shoes to fill and filled them beautifully. She smolders in “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and belts out the title song, “You’re the Top” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” with a voice that is to die for.
Reno is in love with Billy Crocker (David Elder), but Billy has his heart set on debutante Hope Harcourt (Natalie Cortez). Hope is about to board a ship with her mother (Anita Flanagan) and Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (John Scherer), whom she plans to marry on their way to Europe.
Billy stows away on the ship, in the hopes of winning Hope back.
Also on the ship are criminals Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin (Jason Graae), and his companion, the sailor-happy Erma (Melissa Fahn).
It is the thinnest of plots, in which a bunch of silly characters deliver dated gag lines, while sorting out various shipboard romances, mistaken identities and absurd misunderstandings. The whole point seems to be to get from song to song, but really, that is sufficient reason.
Elder, making his Music Circus debut, is handsome and winning as stockbroker Billy, with leading-man charisma and a voice as smooth as butter.
As Moonface Martin, Graae turns in one of those performances that will stay with you for a long time. His body twitches are hilarious.
Cortez is a sweet Hope, in love with Billy, but feeling she must marry Lord Evelyn in order to save her mother from bankruptcy.
Scherer is properly stuffy as Lord Evelyn, but gets a chance to cut loose in Act 2 with the delightful “The Gypsy in Me.” He also reveals a deep secret from his past, which is a plot turner.
Kevin Cooney is delightful as Billy’s perpetually inebriated boss, Wall Street Kingpin Elisha Whitney, who is in love with Hope’s mother.
A sub-plot concerns a couple of Chinese men, who have been converted to Christianity by the Rev. Henry T. Dobson (Michael Jablonsky), who is arrested early in the show in a case of mistaken identity, leaving the Chinese men (Billy Bustamante and Peter King Yuen) to fend for themselves, which they do by returning to their gambling ways.
The dancing in this show is spectacular, with scenery changes woven into the numbers, several turns for small groups of dancers and a terrific tap number for everyone as the finale to the first act.
Sets are minimal, with parts of the ship suggested by a fence here, a porthole there, but great use is made of Music Circus’ multi-section revolving stage.
If you’re looking for some good old-fashioned fun, step aboard this ship, settle back and enjoy the ride. It’s a good one.