Lauren Kennedy just can't get a break at the Muny. Last season she was a radiant Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, but that great script was torpedoed by a supporting cast that ranged from wan to inept. This week, as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Kennedy is supported by the most stellar lineup of talent the Muny has assembled for a single show in years, but now it's the script that ranges from wan to inept.
If Breakfast at Tiffany's is exceptional for its assemblage of talent, it is also the biggest waste of talent at the Muny since maybe forever. Experienced Broadway pros like Ken Page, Bruce Adler and the gifted Emily Skinner are required to sell song after irrelevant song that has nothing to do with the plot. The show's affable leading man, Alan Campbell, isn't as effective a liar as the others. He often finds himself seated at a barroom table with a puzzled look that seems to be asking, "What the hell am I doing here?"
Good question. Because this musical Breakfast at Tiffany's is a bad idea -- it's an idea not only gone wrong, but also gone mediocre. A production this feeble doesn't even merit the compliment of anger. Think boredom. The script by Muny executive producer Paul Blake and Hunt Holman is so witless, it calls to mind Truman Capote's riposte regarding Jack Kerouac's On the Road: "That's not writing -- it's typing."
Purportedly based on Capote's 1958 novella, this Breakfast at Tiffany's does everything it can to sanitize the hard-edged story about the naïve young call girl from Tulip, Texas, trying to create a new identity for herself in Manhattan. Gone is such dialogue as "I've only had eleven lovers. Does that make me a whore?" Now Holly is everybody's virginal kid sister. No wonder Kennedy doesn't register here the way she did in South Pacific. Nellie Forbush is a three-dimensional character; the Muny's Holly isn't allowed to do anything but smile, darn ya, smile. (No, that was last week's show.) Sad to have to say it about someone as attractive as Kennedy, but true to the Muny's scary code of morality, this Holly is downright sexless.
The evening is interspersed with songs by Johnny Mercer, who (with Henry Mancini) wrote the classic "Moon River" for the 1961 film version. Mercer was a giant figure in American music, and his lyrics are always a pleasure to hear -- even if most of them don't fit into this plot any better than the wicked stepsisters' big feet fit into Cinderella's glass slipper. No matter; they get wedged in anyway. When Kennedy and Skinner cut loose on "Gettin' a Man," an obscure Johnny Mercer-Harold Arlen song from the flop 1959 Broadway musical Saratoga, you get a glimpse of how much fun it would be to see these two together in a real musical, like Mame. We'd even settle for Side by Side by Mercer.
Then there's a host of mostly unfamiliar songs by Bart Howard that add nothing to the evening except time. The same can be said about most of the choreography. Why is it there, except as filler?
But there's no point in getting upset about the production, not so long as the board of trustees allows Blake carte blanche to use the Muny as his personal vanity theater. The board already reimburses his expenses to an extent that would make Ken Lay green with envy. But if they're going to encourage Blake to continue to write these shows, can't the board at least find some money to allow him to take a class in scriptwriting? Because when the most dramatic moment of the evening is the playing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" prior to the overture, you know there's trouble in River City. (No, that's next week's show.)
By the way, it's worth noting that Edward Jones ("serving individual investors since 1871") has hogged its way onto the top of the playbill as co-presenter of Breakfast at Tiffany's along with the Muny. If Edward Jones thinks this show is worth its financial support, those individual investors would be well advised to shift their portfolios to A. G. Edwards as soon as possible.