The last entry in this year’s Musicals in Mufti series, “My Favorite Year” (December 5-7, 2014) was an example of the exiting contribution the series makes to the theater. Here was a musical that appeared in New York in 1992 a decade after the 1982 film on which it was based, and it provided a fresh opportunity for the creators, Stephen Flaherty (music), Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Joseph Dougherty (book), to do revisions to sharpen the work. It is the sort of service that the York Theatre Company provides, which is a boon for the theater as well as audiences.
The concert production was not slated for review by critics. Suffice it to say that the result was a fun-filled evening provided by a super-fine cast, and offering insight into a show that surely, especially in its updated form, merits further staging, whether on or off Broadway.
The amazing feat is how these Mufti productions are put together. In the case of “My Favorite Year,” rehearsals began on a Monday and the show had to be ready by Friday night. The performers used scripts, to be sure, but the professionalism of those cast made it seem as if they had mastered the material with a much longer period of preparation behind them.
Charles Wright, in program notes for the revival, observed: “'My Favorite Year’ is both a work in progress and a testament to what artists can achieve when given the opportunity to revisit earlier projects with eyes and ears sharpened by experience.”
The plot for the musical is set in 1954 and built around a live television program modeled after the once popular “Your Show of Shows,” which starred the great Sid Caesar. Much of the humor is built around the guest appearance of a Hollywood star, Alan Swann (Douglas Sills), who drinks to excess and is totally unreliable for even showing up, let alone appear live on TV. The narration looking back on the year is provided by Benjy Stone (Adam Chanler Berat), who worked as a a fledgling writer on the fictional program.
Others in the very talented cast bringing the production to life before a new audience included: Richard Kind, Leslie Kritzer, Rose Hemingway, Christine Pedi, Bree Branker, Aaron Galligan-Stierle, Joy Hermalyn, Francis Jue, Daniel Marcus, Barbara Marineau, Thom Sesma and Emily Walton. The Musical director was David Holcenberg, the director Dan Knechtges. The show was introduced by James Morgan, the York’s Producing Artistic Director, in his ever-congenial, informative and amusing manner.
Other Musicals in Mufti productions this past fall included, “Big, The Musical,” “A Time for Singing,” and “Saturday Night.”
The York’s schedule for two fully produced musical premieres in 2015 include “Texas in Paris” (January 27-March 1) and “Harold and Maude” (May 12-June 14). Both will be at the York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s, 54th Street and Lexington Avenue. Phone: 212-935-5820.