REVIEWS: Have a Heart

Strong Ticker - Have a Heart
Off-Off Broadway
Reviewed by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Have a Heart has not been seen in any form for 87 years. Musicals Tonight uncovered the dust and presented an overdue revival of one of P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome Kern's first musicals. The show, while not so good as Wodehouse and Kern's last musicals (Anything Goes and Show Boat, respectively), has its merits and has some seminal aspects that would grow into those classic masterpieces.

The plot of Have a Heart follows four couples. The main couple is Ruddy (Christopher Guilmet) and Peggy (Marni Raab), a divorced couple still in love. Ruddy must win Peggy back and overcome many obstacles to convince her he still loves her. The second primary couple is Jeff (James Patterson) and Jane (Ellie Mooney); they fall in love at first sight. Next, there are the rehabilitated pickpockets, Henry (Jon Peterson) and Lizzie (Martina Vidmar). Finally, there is the old couple, Peggy's aunt (Evelyn Page) and uncle (Robert Sevra) who are adamantly against Ruddy and Peggy's reunion.

P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton's book is actually quite succinct and at times very amusing. As adapted for Musicals Tonight! by Mel Miller, there is never excess dialog between songs. The jokes, although dated at times, are still well-written. Jerome Kern's score, while no match for Show Boat, is charming and heartfelt. There are moments of brilliance occasionally, but most of the score is pleasant yet ephemeral. "Napoleon" was a cute comedy song, and "And I Am All Alone" was a beautiful ballad.

The cast, as always with Musicals Tonight!, was solid. There was no lack of talent on stage. Each cast members had his/her moment to shine and show off his/her range. There was not really any standout performer, though it was a tight-knit ensemble altogether, and the direction and choreography, by Thomas Mills, kept the pacing and energy up.

Where else can you see an almost-90-year-old musical? The show might not have been incredible, but overall, the production certainly had a heart.

Have a Heart in Concert
Back Stage June 4th, 2004
Reviewed by Victor Gluck

Not seen for 87 years, Have a Heart returned to New York courtesy of Musicals Tonight! The first of the Jerome Kern-P.G. Wodehouse-Guy Bolton musicals, this turned out to be a fairly typical musical comedy farce of mistaken identity, with an unfamiliar score evenly divided between operetta and jazz numbers.

The best song of the evening was “Let’s Build a Little Bungalow in Quogue,” interpolated from “The Riviera Girl,” also from 1917. The lilting score, which was beautifully played by music director Rick Hip-Flores, including such songs as “Napoleon,” “The Road That Lies Before,” “Honeymoon Hotel,” “You Said Something,” and the witty patter song “Polly Believed in Preparedness.”

The plot concerns Ruddy winning back his ex-wife, Peggy, who caught him in a seemingly compromising position and allowed her disapproving aunt to talk her into a divorce. When Ruddy and Peggy elope to an out-of-the-way hotel for a second honeymoon, the situation is complicated by Ruddy’s ex-girl friend, Jane; his best friend, Jeff; and his trusted employee, Henry, an ex-con whose girl friend, Lizzie, sees him as a chance for easy cash.

Director Thomas Mills was unable to do much with Christopher Guilmet in the underwritten role of Ruddy, but he was extremely successful with the character roles. Evelyn Page as the nosy, judgmental aunt stole every scene she was in. Martina Vidmar’s Lizzie was a redheaded bombshell with the energy of a young Merman. James Patterson brought a suave self-confidence to Jeff, and Ellie Mooney as Jane, with whom he falls in live, was a delightful foil. Richard Rowan was amusing as another ex-con (Ruddy apparently has a soft spot for helping them), Watty, now a hotel manager, while Jon Peterson made a fine straight men as the hapless Henry. Marni Raab as Peggy brought a lovely soprano and an excellent sense of outrage.

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