Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Comedy Tonight

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Comedy Tonight

Article excerpt

BY JERRY TALLMER (A 1962 VILLAGE VOICE REVIEW)

Some months ago in a theatre lobby I was chatting with a man named D. about a big musical that had just cracked up disastrously before ever reaching New York. Both D. and I knew and cared about some of those involved in it. I was solicitous, he was now bitter, contemptuous. "Musicals!" he snorted. "Anyone can bring in a play. But musicals! If people just had any idea what it takes to get a musical open, just to get it there to opening night. This is not for kids. This is what divides the kids from the men. This is for the pros."

Well, kids and miscellaneous other interested parties are herewith advised that for the next year or so up at the Alvin, on 52nd Street [Editor's Note: In 1983 it became the Neil Simon Theatre], there will be on exhibit the pluperfect example of the handiwork of a pro, an artisan, man among men. His name is George Abbott and he has been doing it for, I don't know, 40 years maybe, beginning for me in my own time with Room Service and Three Men on a Horse, but beginning, actually, long before that, and doing it better and more consistently and more professionally than anybody else of his own lifetime. And more brilliantly. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a brilliantly funny show made of sheer ephemera because, and I think only because, there was a George Abbott to do the making.

Brilliance attracts brilliance, so of course he has been gifted here with actors, clowns, of the royal blood, beginning with Zero the Great Mostel as a scheming Roman slave and working south through Jack Gilford and David Burns and Raymond Walburn to the mutest cooch girl in John Carradine's bordello or the lowliest legionary of Ronald Holgate's numbskull troop of valiant conquerors. It all comes out of Plautus, it says in the program, and if you believe that, I guess you can believe anything. …

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