With apologies to James Morgan and the York Theatre Company (“York Theatre”) for this very late review of their current offering Marry Harry. I saw this new musical on April 30, but in the last-minute rush of musicals arriving in the days before season’s end, I did not get to reviewing it until now.
This warmhearted original has had a long and varied development, with its first reading at Vassar in 2011 and a workshop at Amas Musical Theatre in 2012. The New York Musical Theatre Festival gave it further life in 2013, and the venerable York Theatre got involved in the summer of 2016, when Cagney director Bill Castellino took over and helped shape it into the full production which is currently on the Main Stage at the York Theatre. There, Producing Artistic Director Morgan is doing what he does best – helping another new musical (as he did with Cagney, which is about to end a 15-month commercial run off Broadway) find its way into the mainstream of American musicals.
It’s heartening to be able to report that the journey for author Jennifer Robbins, Composer Dan Martin, and Lyricist Michael Biello was worth it. They’ve delivered an engaging evening of merriness that should have a life in the community theatres that cater to family audiences who have been deprived in recent years of recognizable stories and songs reflecting the middle class lives they lead.
Marry Harry is a “comfort food” piece about the chaos that follows the announcement that Harry wants to marry Sherri, a lovely young lady whom he met – yesterday. Harry (at 30, still called “Little Harry” by his dad) works at the family bakery in the East Village, but has a great desire to spread his wings and become sous chef to high-toned Upper East Side restaurant chef, Lidia Bastianich. Harry has a chance meeting with Sherri who, with her Mom, is completing final preparations for her fancy wedding to a good-looking Romeo. A cellphone error informs her that Romeo has bedded another woman, and she promptly dumps him.
Sherri’s encounter with Harry leads to instant chemistry and to their decision to marry – despite the howls of disapproval from her uptown Mother and his downtown Father. If this sounds sophomoric, be patient; the material that gives dimension to these characters is adroit, simple and charming.
The authors employ three “Village Voices” (Ben Chavez, Jesse Manocherian, and Claire Saunders) to comment on everything, as well as to supply harmonic backgrounds to the principals’ solos. They introduced us at the top of the show to “A New Day,” then let us know a lot about Big and Little Harry in “Harry’s Way.” The Voices join the young man in “Lidia,” which explains his desire to leave Dad’s bakery, then they back Sherri’s mother Francine in an ode to her daughter who will soon be “Newly Wed.” We become involved as the two youngsters (both of whom are approaching 30) begin to discover how much they have in common and how much they’ve been missing as they’ve not yet cut their umbilical cords with Big Harry and Francine, who are very different, but equally controlling, parents.
Marry Harry’s unpretentious score is accessible and its lyrics have wit and insight, but if these characters have a “dark side,” this is not the musical to give it a home. It deals with family connection and influence, and the use of the combined talents of the young couple to find their own way in the adult world (they have a charming duet about “Nonnina’s Biscotti” and how it might just become as famous as McDonald’s hamburgers).
Morgan Cowling and David Spadora are attractive and totally believable as two emerging adults. Lenny Wolpe brings a big voice and a forceful personality to this father, who has great respect for “The Family Name” and almost too much love for his only son. Robin Skye is the perfect WASP mother, a character we don’t run into much anymore. Both are well-rounded in the writing and in the performance; good people who are willing to bend a little to ensure the happiness of their children.
Jim Morgan has designed a happy city set as background for a cheerful show. The Village Voices wear everything from table cloths to wedding gowns and are always fun to have around. They add much to the spirit of the evening, and they remind us three times during the evening that “A New Day” can bring change and fulfillment. As Little Harry and Sherri wrap up the proceedings with “You Opened a Door,” we leave the theater with a smile on our collective faces.
Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, with no intermission.
Marry Harry plays through Sunday, May 21, 2017, at The York Theatre Company in the lower level of St Peter’s Church – 619 Lexington, in New York City. For tickets, call (212) 935-5820, or purchase them online.
Michael Biello and Dan Martin Are Grooming for the Opening of Marry Harry, by Deb Miller.
Review: Marry Harry at The York Theatre Company, by Deb Miller.