REVIEWS: That's The Ticket!

That’s the Ticket! Review April 9, 2002
Reviewed by Martin Denton

A spoiled rich girl finds an enchanted frog in Central Park. At its request, she takes it home with her, it turns into a prince (named Alfred the Average), and just as you’d expect, he is quickly drafted as a presidential candidate by the fledgling "fourth" party called the Feudals.

Wait -- maybe that’s not what you’d expect. In That’s the Ticket!, the good-naturedly loopy comedy by Harold Rome and Julius and Philip Epstein that Musicals Tonight has rescued from theatre history’s dust heap, unexpected things happen all the time. Part screwball comedy, part fairy tale, part savvy political satire, That’s the Ticket! Is a surprisingly wonderful find. Once again, we must say bravo to enterprising impresario Mel Miller for finding yet another forgotten gem from America’s musical comedy past.

Which is not to say that That’s the Ticket! is a candidate for Broadway; far from it. What we’re seeing here is a meticulous recreation of a show that closed after a single week out of town (in Philadelphia, for the record), at a time when most shows got four to six weeks of tonight up before they arrived in New York. So this show never went through the rearranging, rewriting, and rethinking that even most Broadway flops experienced; we’re talking very raw material, here: stuff that was probably ahead of its time in 1948, stuff that was already tired from overuse, and plenty more stuff that just plain doesn’t belong. It’s tantalizing to guess what Rome, the Epstein Brothers, and director/choreographer Jerome Robbins might have ultimately made out of it all. Tantalizing but, some 54 years on, rather foolhardy.

So why see That’s the Ticket!? Well, for starters, there’s a deliciously witty libretto -- one that needs cutting, to be sure, but one that contains any number of choice, barbed jokes at the expense of American presidential politics in general and greedy conservatives in particular, two targets that never seem to go out of style. There’s also a charming We're Here, Fanny and I Can Get it for You Wholesale: a bona-fide comic list song about money called, well, "The Money Song," a smart pair of numbers, "Looking for a Candidate" and "Gin Rummy Rhapsody" that suggested that the creators of Fiorello! had a peek at the score before writing theirs fourteen years later.

There’s also an opening (and complimentary closing) number that suggests the brilliant heights that Jerome Robbins was about to scale.

The masterful musical comedy character that George S. Irving was in the original cast of That’s the Ticket!; a spry eighty years young, he now heads the cast of this production as the Feudal Party’s leader, a rabidly regressive businessman by the name of Vale-Waterhouse. It’s a treat and a privilege to have Irving on stage again: he handles the bulk of the show’s comedy with consummate panache, and literally stops the show with "The Money Song."

Irving shares the limelight with David Staller, who is excellent as the stalwart but clueless prince/frog Alfred; Rita Harvey, as the attractive young woman who rescues Alfred from his spell; Michael Mendiola, very funny as the slippery political operative Joe; and Andrew Gitzy and Edward Prostak, who offer effective support as Whyte and Green, two other political hacks.

Musicals Tonight never fails to delight as it leads us to yet another forgotten corner of our musical theatre heritage, revealing unexpected insights and attitudes even as it lets us rediscover jokes, songs, and business that have been consigned to obscurity, sometimes deservedly, often not. That’s the Ticket! ranks among the most entertaining shows in the series thus far.

I overheard producer Mel Miller tell a patron that in 1948, when That’s the Ticket! was written, shows like this were a dime a dozen. Today, though, a show like this is genuinely special. Which is precisely true: musical theatre buffs in particular won’t want to miss this one.

Need to Get Rid of a Lot of Old Stuff?
The Village Voice April 23, 2002
Reviewed by Michael Feingold

[…] In this pileup, I have no space for the show I enjoyed most last week: That’s the Ticket!, which died on its pre-Broadway tour in 1948 and is only now getting a New York concert premier from the enterprising Musicals Tonight series. Julius and Philip Epstein’s script merges A Connecticut Yankee with Born Yesterday; Harold Rome’s songs add a dash of syncopated Offenbach; and an original cast alumnus, the beloved George S. Irving, has a high old time in the comic lead. Even debris was better back then.

That’s the Ticket! In Concert
Back Stage May 3, 2002
Reviewed by Victor Gluck

That’s the Ticket! Was intended to be a mythical musical fairy tale about the election of 1948. Although it boasted the artistic contributions of Harold Rome, Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein, Jerome Robbins, Oliver Smith, Miles White and Lehman Engel, it never made it out of Philadelphia. Musicals Tonight, which stages forgotten American musicals, has given the show its New York premiere with charming, humorous results.

Following n the footsteps of Of Thee I Sing and Finian’s Rainbow, but preceding Fiorello, the Epstein brothers’ book for That’s the Ticket! concerns a search for a presidential candidate that ends up choosing an enchanted prince from the year 1948. The witch who enchanted him is still around, however, and he runs the risk of being returned to a frog before he can be elected.

Although the first act at 100 minutes is far too long, director-choreographer Thomas Mills has gotten the most mileage out of a farce that was also extremely prescient (e.g. a Supreme Court that decides who can’t run for president, etc.). Harold Rome’s songs are cheerful and bouncy, from the hilarious "Fa-La-La" to the witty "The Fair Sex" to the bluesy ballad, "You Never Know What Hit You."

George S. Irving, who played a political hack in the original production, has been promoted to a political bigwig Vale-Waterhouse, a role he was born to play. As the musical’s villain, Carter Calvert sets the stage on fire vamping her way through such songs as "Take Off The Coat, My Friend." David Staller’s Sir Alfred makes a stalwart hero out of a man suffering from culture shock. As his inamorata, Rita Harvey as Patricia Vale-Waterhouse is a sparkling modern woman. Michael Mendiola almost steals the show with his tale of woe recounted in the clever "Cry, Baby," attempting to make Patricia shed tears over her frog prince.

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