This new musical is about as old-fashioned as you can get. A frolic about the newspaper business whose fun is in the snappy patter, "The Front Page" has had many stage, movie and TV incarnations over the past 80 years. But in "Windy City," retooled after its London run nearly a quarter-century ago, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's dialogue is interrupted by songs, most of them sounding like generic Broadway from decades ago. The result sacrifices speed and snap, along with any affection we might feel for the characters.</B>

This new musical is about as old-fashioned as you can get. A frolic about the newspaper business whose fun is in the snappy patter, “The Front Page” has had many stage, movie and TV incarnations over the past 80 years. But in “Windy City,” retooled after its London run nearly a quarter-century ago, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s dialogue is interrupted by songs, most of them sounding like generic Broadway from decades ago. The result sacrifices speed and snap, along with any affection we might feel for the characters.

Once likeable types, those characters now seem crude and overblown: Hildy (David Elder), the ace reporter who wants to leave Chicago and his job at “The Examiner,” exudes pure smarm; his ruthless managing editor (Paul Schoeffler) is mean and loud rather than gruff and funny; Hildy’s fiancee (Cristen Boyle) seems perpetually angry and bitchy. There’s also no indication of chemistry between the two lovers; their big number together, “Red Hot Honey Like Me,” in which she tries, for the last time, to seduce him away from his typewriter and the scoop of the century, features embarrassingly vulgar choreography.

The one likeable character is Molly Malloy, the hooker with the heart of gold; Denise Whelan has a terrific voice and her two songs, “He Never Even Touched Me” and “I Can Only Talk to You,” move the audience to the only audible enthusiasm in the evening.

Since the plot reveals that journalists are willing to do anything for a story — stuff a murderer into a desk, cancel weddings, cheat, lie, steal — this would seem a perfect civic moment for a revival with real bite. But instead of reimagining “The Front Page,” “Windy City” merely plods through quaintness after quaintness, from knockout drops to red-white-and-blue costumed tapdancers to wisecracks about losing “the colored vote.” The caricature of a gay mama’s boy, gags about toupees and calling people “big lugs” all wear thin.

Most of the production numbers use all male voices — and there are many strong, melodic voices in the cast (Jeffrey Coon and Bev Appleton are standouts) — but most of the pressroom gang’s songs sound alike, mainly involving people standing on chairs or tables with their arms in the air. The whole set sometimes moves a few feet forward or backward, and each time, for reasons unknown, the lighting shifts from bright to dark.

Windy City

Walnut St. Theater, Philadelphia; 1,078 seats, $67.50 top

Production

A Walnut Street Theater presentation of a musical in two acts with music by Tony Macaulay, book and lyrics by Dick Vosburgh, with additional material by Macaulay, based on "The Front Page" by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Directed and choreographed by Marc Robin. Musical and vocal direction, Douglass G. Lutz.

Creative

Sets, Robert Andrew Kovach; costumes, Colleen Grady; lighting, Paul Wonsek; sound, Ryk Lewis; production stage manager, Roy W. Backes. Opened Sept. 13. Reviewed Sept. 14. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

Cast

With: David Elder, Paul Schoeffler, Denise Whelan, Cristen Boyle, Stuart Zagnit, David Brummel, Keith Gerchak, Jeffrey Coon, Marc Robin, Curt Dale Clark, Stephen Berger, William Solo, Bev Appleton, Peter Schmitz, Bill Bateman, Harold Barnard, William Hartery, Lee Golden, Donna M. Ryan, Colleen Hazlett, Maggie Anderson, Kelly Faulkner.
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