Guys and dolls hit right notes in ‘Where’s Charley'

A lively pace and pleasing vocals make the 42nd Street Moon revival of Frank Loesser’s “Where’s Charley?” an enjoyable dip into musical theater history.

Sourced from the immensely successful “Charley’s Aunt” by Brandon Thomas, which premiered in 1892, the plot is a comedy – some say farce – of then-contemporary manners of courtship. The 1948 musical became a career high for Ray Bolger, who repeated his performance in a 1952 film that is sadly unavailable to consumers today.

The production at the Eureka Theatre stars Keith Pinto in the energetic cross-dressing role. As he’s proven in several recent productions, Pinto is a solid entertainer with a great voice and a charmingly natural acting style. That’s a definite plus, to contrast with the fast-paced changes he must make to play his own aunt.

If there’s a down side to his performance, it’s that his footwork during “Once in Love With Amy” is solid when it should be effervescent. The one standout hit song from the score should embody the ebullient joy of young love returned. Instead, Pinto dances some nicely athletic choreography by Nancy Dobbs Owen (peppered with some curiously tapless tap sequences) that’s certainly fun to watch, but feels too razzle-dazzle for the character.

As the object of Charley’s affection, Abby Sammons has a grand time with Amy, fretting her beloved’s odd behavior with increasing anxiety until it boils over in her hysterical (in all senses) performance of “The Woman in His Room.”

Completing the quartet of lovers are James Bock as Charley’s Oxford roommate Jack, and Jennifer Mitchell as Kitty, Jack’s intended. Both sing beautifully and play the romantic sparring with just the right, light touch.

Director Dyan McBride demonstrates a wonderful affinity for the period style and artfully avoids downtime in George Abbott’s book. The entire company does an excellent job with the score under the guidance of music director Lauren Mayer. The physical production is nice step up in style for Moon with graceful costumes by Rebecca Valentino and a refreshingly less-is-more set by Hector Zavala.

Standouts in the supporting cast include an elegantly witty Stephanie Rhoads as the actual title character. Then there’s dapper charm from John-Elliott Kirk, leeringly avaricious bluster by Scott Hayes and humorous double-time duty from Stephen Vaught.

Tim Wagner, Zac Schuman, Roy Eikleberry, Maria Mikheyenko, Katherine Leyva and an impossibly leggy Noelani Neal create a wonderfully complementary visual and vocal ensemble in a frothy and romantic production that offers a nice balance of love and laughter.

REVIEW

Where’s Charley?

Presented by 42nd Street Moon

Where: Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 6 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes May 17

Tickets: $25 to $75

Contact: (415) 255-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org

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