A Day In Hollywood / A Night In The Ukraine - 2003
Civic Light Opera brings
Broadway musical to Fairview
A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the
Ukraine

Wed., May 28, 2003

By David Silverberg
Special to the Mirror

Picture tap-dancing, the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope’s
“Thanks for the Memory” and a Katherine Hepburn
impersonation in one evening.  If that sounds like a
delicious blast from the past, then you’ll enjoy
A Day
in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine
, staged by the
Civic Light Opera Company and running until June 1 at
the Fairview Library Theatre.

The two unrelated musical acts are familiar to the
company – they staged it in 1986 and 1993 – and
audiences may once again revel in the 1930’s-era
musical revue (
A Day in Hollywood) along with a
Marx Brothers’ musical comedy (
A Night in the
Ukraine
).
The show first appeared onstage in 1980, conceived by librettist Dick Vosburgh and pianist Frank Lazarus for 588 performances, the
unlikely Broadway hit was nominated for nine Tony Awards, thanks to the contributions of veteran songwriter Jerry Herman (of
Hello Dolly!).

In the first half, six ushers at Grauman’s Chinese theatre in Hollywood prance and sing 19 classics from and about films.  “I Love a
Film Cliché” features those movie lines we recognize as predictable tools in a scriptwriter’s arsenal: “Blackmail is such an ugly
word.”  Mary Elizabeth Niec parodies actress Jeanette MacDonald in “Nelson,” questioning the manhood of, yes, you guessed it,
Nelson Eddy.

The first half’s highlight is the musical pouring out of
Joe Cascone, the director, principal actor and pianist behind the company.  His
finger-dancing does more than tickle those ivories; he massages them.

After
Peter Loucas saunters on stage to the swaggering “Thanks for the Memory” (Hope’s signature song), the company taps their
toes to the delightful “Doin’ the Production Code.”  Who thought reciting the ancient film censorship code could look like so much
fun?  (And who thought kissing scenes had to be no more than six seconds?)

The act’s overall feel is half-parody, half-tribute…  The company succeeds in recreating Hollywoods’ golden age.

An hour of straight songs is a risky venture, considering the first half has no plot or suspenseful arch.  Credit the second half (
A
Night in the Ukraine
) for entertaining a dialogue-hungry audience.  Loosely based on Anton Chekhov’s The Bear, the second d half is
dotted with a comedy styling the Russian playwright never envisioned.

Dubbed as “the funniest musical the Marx Brothers never made,”
A Night in the Ukraine features Chico, Harpo and Groucho doing
their slapstick schtick in a living room interior set.

Mrs. Pavlenko (
Carol Kugler) is a wealthy widow who is visited by a lawyer (David Haines) insisting on being paid 1200 rubles the
late Mr. Pavelnko owes him.

Diving into the Groucho character like a man literally possessed,
Haines provides most of the droll (but corny) humour, especially in
song form during “Samovar the Lawyer.”  Impersonating Chico Marx,
Cascone’s Carlo the Italian servant is the most facially
expressive of the bunch, even interrupting some of the more tedious jokes Groucho churns out.

Susan Sanders as the mute Harpo (playing Gino the gardener) is smart casting; the result works wonders because Sanders’ doe-eyed
innocence excellently balances beside Harpo’s goofiness.