Puttin' on the Ritz
Produced by the Footlight Players
Oct. 23-25, 30-Nov. 1, 8 p.m., Nov. 2, 3 p.m.
The Footlight Players Theatre
20 Queen St.
"Broadway" is often thrown into a bio as if it imparted magical qualities on the performer.
Robert Ray is the star of the Footlight Players' Puttin' on the Ritz. His biography touts a Broadway debut in the 1980 revival of Oklahoma (which is his only Broadway show) and goes on to list the many stars with whom he has appeared on stage.
But Ray's Puttin' on the Ritz is a tired show. It feels like it started life in a cabaret of some repute, moved on to a cruise ship, then a Las Vegas lounge before being wrung of its last breaths in small-town community theaters.
The costumes look old. Some don't fit properly — the sleeves on Ray's jacket hang past his knuckles and one female star's pants are embarrassingly tight. The lighting is dim at best. Ray and Puttin' on the Ritz are beginning to look a little long in the tooth.
This is Irving Berlin for God's sake.
How do you mess it up this badly?
The arrangements fail to stick to the familiar refrains, as if Ray decided that he could improve upon the master's work. Some songs are so badly chopped that it's hard to recognize them, including sing-along favorites like "Alexander's Ragtime Band" or "Heat Wave."
The worst thing is this: None of the cast is really that bad. Ray's voice is strong, though his range seems limited, and his three female co-stars have a fair amount of vocal talent.
However, as presented at Footlight, this is hard to forgive.
Clunky hand-held mics, cheesy staging, stereotypical backdrops — these you don't expect to find in a theater that makes you pay $30 a ticket.
Shoving 41 songs into a scant 90 minutes (with a 15-minute intermission), this is simply a bad song-and-dance revue of a great man's music.
Footlight's production company has little to do with the show and can be forgiven for everything except booking this mess.
William Bryan is the editor of Lowcountrystages.com.