Cole Porter’s 1943 “Something for the Boys” was a big hit on Broadway, featuring Ethel Merman and providing welcome amusement to wartime audiences. A year later, it had a successful film version with Carmen Miranda, Phil Silvers and Perry Como. Then it virtually disappeared, until it became one of 42nd Street Moon's early hits, 20 years ago.
Now it's back as one of the San Francisco theater company's anniversary revivals, and under Daniel Witzke's direction, it's a pleasant, amusing period piece, although it doesn’t have Porter’s usual hit parade – despite the title song, “Could It Be You?” and “Hey, Good-Looking.”
Written by brother-sister team Dorothy and Herbert Fields, it has a fairly complicated and yet inconsequential story, unlike the Fields’ excellent books for “South Pacific” and “Flower Drum Song,” among others.
Opening in a USO setting (with Abby Sammons, Eliza Leoni and Victoria Stewart Davis) serenading the audience, the story slowly brings together three strangers who are distantly related and share in a totally unexpected inheritance – a Texas mansion.
Blossom Hart (Heather Orth), a machinist who hears radio signals through carborundum in her tooth fillings, Chiquita Hart (Dyan McBride), a flamboyant showgirl, and Harry Hart (Brian Herndon), a somewhat shady pitchman, end up in Texas, where they try to figure out what to do with the crumbling mansion.
They decide to restore the building to serve as a guest house for wives of the military, but there are many complications, especially with Army band leader Rocky Fulton (Tyler McKenna), the object of Blossom's desire. He is already engaged to Melanie (the repurposed Leoni), spoiled and trouble-making daughter of a senator. And so it goes until all is resolved.
The production comes together well, resulting from smooth direction by Witzke, authentic period costumes by Felicia Lilienthal, lively choreography by Staci Arriaga, and music direction and piano accompaniment by Dave Dobrusky (supported on woodwinds by Nick Di Scala).
Unlike similar small venues, the Eureka Theatre remains free of amplification and oices and instruments are unaided by electronics, thanks to Moon co-directors Greg MacKellan and Stephanie Rhoads. It’s an old-fashioned pleasure to listen to the music, rather than be overwhelmed by it, and 42nd Street Moon provides such an experience that’s all too rare these days.
Something for the Boys
Presented by 42nd Street Moon
Where: Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., S.F.
When:7 p.m. Wednedays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 6 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes Dec.14
Tickets: $25 to $75
Contact: (415) 255-8207, www.42ndStMoon.org