SILK STOCKINGS at 42nd Street Moon needs charisma

Dyan McBride as Janice Dayton looks on as Lee Ann Payne( Ninotchka) is smitten with Ian Simpson (Steven Canfield)

SILK STOCKINGS: Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, book by George S. Kaufman, Leueen MacGrath & Abe Burrows. Directed by Greg MacKellan. 42nd Street Moon, Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. 415/255-8207 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 415/255-8207 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or May 4 – 22, 2011.

The relatively recent re-tooling of 42nd Street Moon’s mission to produce fully staged and costumed performances gave birth to a smash hit for their penultimate 2010-2011 season with Strike Up the Band. For Silk Stockings, their final offering of this season, six of the 14 member cast are equity actors with multi-talented Greg MacKellan directing. With these credentials, one would expect another unqualified hit. It was not to be at the Thursday night performance even though exuberance abounds, humor was plentiful, and musical gems were pleasing to the ear. The problem can be traced to lack of charisma between the lead couple.

The basis for Silk Stockings is the 1939 Ernst Lubitsch directed movie Ninotchka with the incomparable Greta Garbo in the lead role. Ninotchka (Lee Ann Payne) a saturnine Soviet agent is sent to Paris to retrieve classical composer Boroff (Daniel Epstein). She is seduced by the charm and excitement of Paris and debonair Steven Canfield (Ian Simpson). Canfield is arranging to turn Boroff’s “Ode to a Tractor” into kaleidoscopic musical with former swimming star Janice Dayton ( Dyan McBride) belting “Stereophonic Sound.” Three wayward apparatchiks (Jackson Davis, Michael Rhone, Jeremy Vik) have been sent ahead of Ninotchka and have already become addicted to the wiles of Paris. They provide most of the humor in the script and have the showstopper song and dance “Siberia” as the shuffle on and off the stage. Even though Jeremy Vik does handstands and Michael Rhone holds his own, Jackson Davis earns the Tony with his pitch perfect facial expressions.

The songs are vintage Cole Porter with “Paris Loves Lovers”, “All of You”, “Satin and Silk”, “Silk Stockings” and the rousing finale “The Red Blues/The Ritz Roll and Rock.”

Musical director Dave Dobrusky on the piano and Nick DiScala on reeds are superb accompaniment for the on stage shenanigans. Dyan McBride’s competent performance lacks the energy needed to bring down the house with her production numbers.

Silk Stockings is basically a love story requiring a frumpy woman to blossom into a wide-eyed love smitten charmer. Costumer Louise Jarmilowicz decks Lee Ann Payne in charming costumes for Ninotchka’s transformation. However, “clothing does not make the man.” Running time about two hours and 15 minutes with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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