Based on the 1960 film “The Apartment,” written by Billy Wilder and L.A.L. Diamond and starring Jack Lemon and Shirley McClain, PROMISES, PROMISES transitioned to the stage with grace, musical charm, and lots of laughs. And could it be otherwise with a book by Neil Simon, music by Burt Bacharach, and lyrics by Hal David? PROMISES, PROMISES originally opened on Broadway in 1968 starring Jerry Orbach as Chuck Baxter. It was revived in 2010, and, between 1968 and 2010, racked up three Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards among multiple nominations, as well as a Grammy for best musical show album. With songs like “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, “I Say a Little Prayer for You,” and “A House is not a Home,” who could doubt the musical genius of Burt Bacharach? The Group Rep has taken on this big theater musical for its 2022 holiday show. Directed by Brent Beerman with musical direction by Kathi Chaplar and choreography by Paul Reid and Hisato Masuyama, this is the perfect production for the season.
The time is the later 1960s, and the place is the Consolidated Life Insurance Company in New York City. The unassuming and quiet Chuck Baxter has big dreams and hopes to make his mark in the corporate world of insurance. Try as he might, this is a man who’s easy to forget, a man who doesn’t stand out in a crowd, a classic example of a nerd. But that isn’t preventing him from shooting for a promotion from junior executive to the seventeenth floor, where he can join the Big Boys with a key to the executive bathroom. Chuck has hit upon the perfect plan: he is allowing his midtown apartment to be used by his married superiors for romantic trysts. True, he is often stuck out in the winter cold while he waits for permission to enter his own digs; and he’s losing a lot of sleep because of it. But what’s a little sacrifice for the golden apple?
All seems to be going well – until Chuck (Alec Reusch) takes a shine to Fran Kubelik (Danica Waitley), a waitress in the corporate dining room. Little does he know that Fran is the current girl-of-the month for J.D. Sheldrake (Kevin Michael Moran), the very powerful personnel director in the company, who has been taking Fran to Chuck’s apartment. Unfortunately, Fran also does not realize that she is Sheldrake’s girl-of-the-month and thinks that Sheldrake is planning on an imminent divorce. Meanwhile, the heavy traffic in and out of Chuck’s apartment has even drawn the attention of next-apartment neighbor Dr. Dreyfuss (Stan Mazin), who considers Chuck the stud-of-the-year.
Director Brent Beerman and musical director and vocal arranger Kathi Chaplar have done an excellent job of keeping the ball rolling, the laughs flowing, and the upbeat music coming. Character development clearly takes a second seat to comedy, song, and dance. PROMISES, PROMISES has a lively cast who frequently swing and sway their way across the stage (with some amazing acrobatics occasionally thrown in) as they raise their voices to Bacharach’s iconic tunes. Congratulations to set designer Mareli Mitchel-Shields, who somehow manages to compress dozens of scene changes into simple small onstage revisions, no small feat in such a big musical. Michael Mullen’s costumes always remind us that it’s the 1960s, and the entire production team do a superb job converting a big theater production into a small theater setting. PROMISES, PROMISES is entertaining, hilarious, and a genuine musical treat. The Group Rep presents the musical in its entirety, which runs as long as the original production – but with only one intermission. This is a fun show, and it will also remind some of us seniors what shows were like in the 60s and 70s, when attention spans were apparently far longer. Go for the flash and splash and stay for those lovely Bacharach songs. You’ll be glad that you did.
PROMISES, PROMISES runs through 1/15/23 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $40 (senior and students $35; parties 10+ $30). For information and reservations, call 818-763-5990 or go online.
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