COURTESY JESSICA PALOPOLIJeffrey Brian Adams is excellent as junior executive with yearnings in San Francisco Playhouse’s production of “Promises

COURTESY JESSICA PALOPOLIJeffrey Brian Adams is excellent as junior executive with yearnings in San Francisco Playhouse’s production of “Promises

SF Playhouse makes ‘Promises’ worth keeping

Sporting a “Mad Men” attitude and some standout performances, San Francisco Playhouse offers a carol-free alternative to holiday theatergoing with “Promises, Promises.”

The 1969 musical boasts the talents of comedy hitmaker Neil Simon and songwriting kings Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and was faithfully adapted from Billy Wilder’s Oscar-winning film “The Apartment.”

Unfortunately, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts, and “Promises, Promises” manages just a handful of memorable tunes – the two best at the very end of the show – and a plot that bogs down with unnecessary production numbers and underdeveloped characters.

That doesn’t stop director Bill English from working through or around most of these obstacles with the help of an energized cast, zippy choreography by Kimberly Richards, period-evocative costumes by Tatjana Genser, clever projections by Micah Stieglitz and music direction by David Möschler and Kevin Roland that demonstrates a clear affinity for Bacharach’s percolating style.

It all centers on Chuck Baxter, an insurance office drone hopelessly in love with Fran Kubelik, the executive dining room attendant. They only connect in elevators and hallways – often involving his funny fantasy conversations – until he scores a promotion by loaning his apartment to executives ladder-rungs above him so they can consummate their extramarital affairs. Remember, it’s the ‘60s!

As Baxter, Jeffrey Brian Adams carries the heart of the show and delivers a triumphant performance rich in endearing self-effacement, deadpan comic delight, impressive full-throated vocals and a physicality so buoyant he can’t keep it contained on the stage. The man is simply made for musicals.

Staking out her territory next to Adams is Monique Hafen as the object of his affections and those of their boss. A pale beauty with a golden voice, Hafen smartly eschews musical comedy perkiness to dig deeper into a young woman coming to grips with her role and her goals in a quickly changing culture.

Saddled with an unfair share of the shortcomings of the score and script plus the erstwhile villain’s role, Johnny Moreno cuts a great stage figure but fares less well as Sheldrake, the self-serving executive for whom Fran is just another entry in his romantic portfolio.

Rounding out the cast, Ray Reinhardt feels a little under rehearsed as the Baxter’s long-suffering doctor neighbor, but Corinne Proctor spices up the second act as Marge, Baxter’s hysterical barfly pick-up with haute pretensions.

Major kudos also go to the very talented multi-tasking ensemble of Morgan Dayley, Joseph Estlack, Rudy Guerrero, Kathryn Fox Hart, Stephen Shear and Leah Shesky who literally keep the show moving.

It’s a fun, attractive and complex physical production and more performances – and maybe a few trumpet rehearsals – will likely iron out some of the opening night glitches as it settles in for its extended run.

REVIEW

Promises, Promises

Where: San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St., S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays. 3 p.m. Sundays; closes Jan. 10

Tickets: $20 to $120

Contact: (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org

artsJeffrey Brian AdamsPromisesSan Francisco Playhouse

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Construction in the Better Market Street Project between Fifth and Eighth streets is expected to break ground in mid-2021.<ins></ins>
SFMTA board to vote on Better Market Street changes

Agency seeks to make up for slimmed-down plan with traffic safety improvements

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an event to name President-elect Joe Biden’s economic team at the Queen Theater on Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)
Kamala Harris to resign from Senate

Bridget Bowman CQ-Roll Call Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will resign from the… Continue reading

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Pelosi called for the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump a day after his supporters stormed the Capitol. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
Feds seeking woman whose ex says she stole Nancy Pelosi’s laptop during Capitol riot

Jeremy Roebuck The Philadelphia Inquirer Federal authorities have obtained an arrest warrant… Continue reading

Most Read