By Tulis McCall
Mrs. McThing – A Bewitching Musical lives up to its moniker. What a pleasure to attend a staged reading/musical presentation downtown at TADA Youth Theatre .
Strong on music and lyrics it is a tale that combines nearly every classic plot in the book. A rich woman reduced to rags where she finally finds her heart’s desires. A gangster with a heart of gold. Two lost children rescued by a daring grown-up effort.
And, of course a chorus with pitch perfect everything with lungs the size of the moon.
The story: Howay LaRue (Parker S. Dzuba) is a beyond-belief-brat who is magically transported to the Shantyland Poolhall Luchroom and the world of the local mob. In his place, there is a polite but boring stick child formed in his exact likeness. The mob takes a liking to the real Howay, whose sense of morals is as base as their, but when his mom, Mrs. Howard LaRue III (Donna English) shows up, things change pronto. [Remember this was written decades ago when women assumed their husbands name and that was that.] Mrs. LaRue soon catches the twinkle in the eye of the mob boss Poison Eddie Schellenbach (Craig Bierko) and things take a turn for the better.
The music is the stand out here with “How Do You Make Magic” which will be on an album or in a cabaret act very, very soon. “Know You” is a delicious sentimental number for anyone to sing to anyone they love. “You’ve Got What It takes” and “Crazy” sweeten the pot.
All the musical numbers are reminiscent of dozens of Broadway tunes – the ones you leave the theatre humming. The composers borrow styles from the best of previous composers. The tunes are elegant and the lyrics superb. The songs make you pay attention while you are tapping your feet.
The book itself needs work in order live up to the music. Mrs. McThing is barely present, and without a villain the good people have nothing against which to plot and push. This score is begging for a struggle and a show-down.
Musical Direction by Michael Lavine.