Melding the bio-drama of Academy Award-winning lyricist Al Dubin (1892-1945) with a pseudo-concert ren-dering of his songs is a daunting task, and this ambitious, energetic production doesn't succeed on either level. De-spite an ingratiating portrayal of Dubin by Nathan Holland, it is awkward to segue from the unfolding history of an alcoholic lech (who gambled away his earnings, neglected his daughter and openly cheated on his wife) to Jamie Anderson's (as Dick Powell) tender rendering of "I Only Have Eyes for You" and Heather Lee's (as his wife, Helen) forlorn "I'll String Along With You." Though every number in the production is staged with imaginative aplomb by director David Galligan and choreographer Kay Cole, the intensity of the storyline actually impedes the audience's ability to react to the musical offerings.

Melding the bio-drama of Academy Award-winning lyricist Al Dubin (1892-1945) with a pseudo-concert ren-dering of his songs is a daunting task, and this ambitious, energetic production doesn’t succeed on either level. De-spite an ingratiating portrayal of Dubin by Nathan Holland, it is awkward to segue from the unfolding history of an alcoholic lech (who gambled away his earnings, neglected his daughter and openly cheated on his wife) to Jamie Anderson’s (as Dick Powell) tender rendering of “I Only Have Eyes for You” and Heather Lee’s (as his wife, Helen) forlorn “I’ll String Along With You.” Though every number in the production is staged with imaginative aplomb by director David Galligan and choreographer Kay Cole, the intensity of the storyline actually impedes the audience’s ability to react to the musical offerings.

It is impossible to truly enjoy the songs and the performances on their own merits because the setup of every song in the show is built on the hypocrisy of the man’s tragically corrupt history. Director Galligan mistakenly unfolds Dubin’s dubious story then displays Dubin’s music as if one does not adversely affect the other. And though play-wright Kimmel is very astute at displaying the weaknesses of Dubin’s character, there is no attention given to ex-plaining the soul of a man who possessed almost no moral fiber yet could turn out the emotionally insightful “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” sung with heart-rending intensity by Mary Jo Mecca.

As stated in the production, Dubin has been called “the for-gotten man of Broadway,” par-tially because pure lyri-cists like him never get the billing and the credit bestowed on such melody-makers as Dubin collaborators Harry Warren and Jimmy McHugh. And as chronicled in Joel Kimmel’s angst-riddled book, Dubin’s alienating lifestyle and work habits did not make for fond remembrances from peers or entertainment industry historians.

“Lullaby of Broadway” fol-lows our anti-hero from his Tin Pan Alley days following the Great War, to his self-destructive years in Hollywood, turning out such gems as “About a Quarter to Nine,” “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me,” “For You,” the Oscar-winning “Lullaby of Broadway,” “We’re in the Money,” “September in the Rain,” “Indian Summer,” “42nd Street” and many, many more.

While adequately displaying the drive and charisma of the man, there is never a satisfactory explanation given to why such a gifted artist would be so disre-spectful of his own talent and the support of those who truly loved him.

For the most part, cast is ex-cellent. Complementing Hol-land’s Dubin are Kirby Tepper as the supremely easygoing com-poser Harry Warren, Mary Codorette, doing duty as the tough hoofer Ruby Keeler and Dubin’s wise-beyond-her-years daughter, Patricia, James Mat-thew Campbell as the no-nonsense movie choreographer Busby Berkeley and Mary Jo Mecca as Dubin’s adoring but low-class mistress Edwina.

Also, a true standout of the production is Tami Tappan, who is a comedic delight with the novelty tune “Frankfurter Sand-wiches,” then just soars through the emotion-charged “Painting the Clouds With Sunshine.” One extremely low point in the pro-duction, however, is Perry C. Moore’s undernourished and out-of-tune portrayal of legendary band leader Cab Calloway per-forming “Lulu’s Back in Town.”

Providing ample support to the onstage doings are Robert L. Smith’s imaginative black-and-white art deco set, the lighting of Michael Gilliam, Thomas G. Marquez’s dead-on period cos-tuming and the duo-piano ac-companiment of musical director James Vukovidch and Andy Chuckerman

Lullaby of Broadway: The Life and Lyrics of Al Dubin

Tiffany Theatre; 99 seats; $30 top

Production

Corky Hale Prods. presents "Lullaby of Broadway: The Life & Lyrics of Al Dubin," a musical play in two acts, book by Joel Kimmel, music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin, directed by David Galligan.

Creative

Choreography by Kay Cole; musical director is James Vukovich. Producer, Corky Hale; associate producer, Ronn Goswick; set design, Robert L. Smith; lighting design, Michael Gilliam; costume design, Thomas G. Marquez; sound design, Philip Allen. Opened and reviewed Dec. 1, 1997; runs until Jan. 25. Running time: 2 hours.

Cast

Nathan Holland (Al Dubin), Kirby Tepper (Harry Warren), Heather Lee (Helen McClay Dubin), Perry C. Moore (Cab Calloway/Reporter), Mary Cadorette (Ruby Keeler/Patricia), Jamie Anderson (Dick Powell), Mary Jo Mecca (Edwina), James Matthew Campbell (Busby Berkeley), Tami Tappan (Mr. Warren).
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