Heartbeats

Another harp string twangs, another stanza joins the old refrain: Here I am at a milestone/middle-aged birthday; life used to be beautiful; what went wrong? Writer-lyricist-composer-singer Amanda McBroom has traveled her "Heartbeats" almost continually since the 1990 premiere at San Diego's Old Globe; in the Pasadena production, an energetic cast and some elaborate and tricky scenery go some distance to cover the formula-ridden book and the aching emptiness of the music.

With:
Annie ... Amanda McBroom Steve ... George Ball Young Annie and others ... Michele Maika Jeff, waiter and others ... Kevin Bailey Young Steve and others ... William Falk Best Friend and others ... Sharon McNight

Another harp string twangs, another stanza joins the old refrain: Here I am at a milestone/middle-aged birthday; life used to be beautiful; what went wrong? Writer-lyricist-composer-singer Amanda McBroom has traveled her “Heartbeats” almost continually since the 1990 premiere at San Diego’s Old Globe; in the Pasadena production, an energetic cast and some elaborate and tricky scenery go some distance to cover the formula-ridden book and the aching emptiness of the music.

Twenty years of marriage have locked wife Annie (McBroom) and husband Steve (George Ball) into congruent but separate worlds; he lives for Monday Night Football, she for her trips to the supermarket.

They split, they dabble in alternative possibilities, they return to a shaky reconciliation, as a second couple (Michele Maika, William Falk), representing their selves when younger, act out the way things once were.

Director Bill Castellino’s choreography creates an elegant, sinuous counterpoint between the couples; their movement is mirrored in Linda Hacker’s scenic units slithering on- and off-stage, nicely pointed in Richard Winkler’s lighting.

Loosely cohering to the slick and unsurprising story is a profusion of songs and almost-songs.

Despite a tendency to overdo the facial calisthenics, the cast generally turn this wan material into something almost identifiable as music.

McBroom herself is less successful; her troubled housewife Annie rises no higher than the kind of smiling-through-tears wisecrack that, in Soapland, might pass for bravery.

Her best-known song, 1979’s “The Rose,” achieved transfiguration as sung by Bette Midler in her movie of that name. Imported into “Heartbeats” as a final benediction, it fills the stage with more suds.

Heartbeats

(Pasadena Playhhouse; 650 seats; $ 40 top)

Production: A Theatre Corp. of America presentation of a musical in two acts, with book, music and lyrics by Amanda McBroom, with additional music by Gerald Sternbach, Michele Brourman, Tom Snow, Craig Safan; director, choreographer, Bill Castellino; producer, Goodspeed Opera House.

Creative: Sets, Linda Hacker; costumes, Charlotte M. Yetman; lighting, Richard Winkler; sound, Frederick Boot. Opened July 17, 1994; reviewed July 20; runs through Aug. 21. Running time: 2 hrs., 5 mins.

Cast: Annie ... Amanda McBroom Steve ... George Ball Young Annie and others ... Michele Maika Jeff, waiter and others ... Kevin Bailey Young Steve and others ... William Falk Best Friend and others ... Sharon McNight

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