Monday, November 24, 2014

Promises, Promises: ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

We get two excellent lead performances (Jeffrey Brian Adams as Chuck Baxter and Monique Hafen as Fran Kubelik), plus two equally first-rate supporting roles (Corinne Proctor as Marge and Ray Reinhardt as Dr. Dreyfuss). We also get a hall of fame book writer (Neil Simon) and two multi-Grammy winning songwriters (Burt Bacharach and Hal David). What can go wrong?

It's the passage of time. Bacharach's music that was cutting-edge in 1968 has become the province of elevators and supermarkets. With the exception of two or three songs (one of which, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," sung by Hafen and Adams, is a true showstopper), the sound track is peppy, but forgettable. Simon's story, taken from the Billy Wilder film "The Apartment," has some great one-liners, but we all know where it's going. And since the score is wildly jazzy, the six office workers, three men and three women, would have to have been selected to sing first and dance second. Their singing is fine.

Johnny Moreno is good as the big boss. We can understand why the innocent Fran would choose to have an affair with him, but he is a shark in a shallow pool. They all are. The men are forever pulling up their pants and putting on their coats, while the women wait for the divorce that will never come.

In the end, love conquers all. That's nice. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. But that song isn't in "Promises, Promises."

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Promises, Promises" Three Stars with a BANGLE of PRAISE. Having seen the show on the last night of Previews, it is possible the cast will sing and dance itself into the smooth ensemble feel this score demands. The music and lyrics may echo a different time, but "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "You'll Think of Someone" and "Whoever You Are I Love You" are timeless songs. The BANGLE is for Adams and Hafen, both of whom are becoming stars before our eyes.

"Promises, Promises"
San Francisco Playhouse
450 Post Street, San Francisco
(Second Floor of Kensington Park Hotel)
Through January 10, 2015

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