“Luck Be a Lady: The Iconic Music of Frank Loesser” – classy, sassy, and debonair, but lean on substance

“Luck be a Lady” is a lot like Vegas – all bright lights and big show – but lacking substance at the end of the night. The show was classy, sassy, and debonair, and started out strong, with phenomenal performances by Broadway stars. The set, costumes, and lighting were remarkable and set the mood of a mid-century nightclub. Everything was pitch perfect for a Broadway run.

My anticipation for the show was very high, because “Guys and Dolls,” by Frank Loesser, is one of my favorite musicals and has been named by many the best musical of all time. I wasn’t sure what to expect for this musical revue of Loesser’s music, but I thought it might be more akin to the amazing Gershwin show, “George Gershwin Alone” at Asolo Repertory Theatre a few years ago. In that production, we learned all about Gershwin, and the stories behind the music. This show, in contrast, was entirely music with no dialogue, so unless you were familiar with Loesser’s work, it was hard to find a connecting thread.

There were, however, many wonderful aspects of the show. For example, when I first heard “Young Woman” singing “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm,” I loved Mary Michael Patterson’s lilting soprano and thought she would make an ideal Christine in “Phantom of the Opera.” At the end of the 83-minute show when I read my program, I learned that indeed she had performed that role on Broadway!

“Young Man,” played by Erik Altemus was so smooth in his rendition of “I Hear Music,” and his dancing throughout the show was wonderful. He captured just the right mixture of swagger and boyish innocence.

I was so drawn into the adorable romance between Patterson and Altemus, and I enjoyed seeing the older versions of them – Woman (Louise Pitre), who commanded the stage during all of her numbers, and Man (James David Larson), who had a caddish confidence that was endearing.

Stephanie Umoh as “Other Woman” was extremely engaging, and her powerhouse numbers were among the strongest in the show.

But, unfortunately, as the night carried on, and the relationship between Patterson and Altemus inexplicably began to fizzle, there was not much to hold together the masterfully performed repertoire of songs.

I believe with some tinkering this could be an outstanding show. But the audience needs a way to connect with the characters, and the lack of dialogue makes that difficult.

Last year, I thought the Asolo’s production of “Hero” was a winner from the very first note, but the team behind the show made some changes during the run to give more back story to the characters. Similarly, with some reworking of “Luck Be a Lady,” audiences will be lucky to get their tickets! For tickets go to www.asolorep.org

All photos are by Cliff Roles

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