“Teddy, there is no circuit to get back on,” a weary hausfrau informs her aging but hopeful tap-dancer husband at one point in this patchwork evening. The same collision of marketplace reality and wishful thinking haunts “Scores of Friends.” As a barely conceptualized revue-cum-musical showcasing a basically unknown tunesmith, its commercial chances seem frail at best.
Certainly they are as the evening currently stands. “Scores” has one substantial virtue: Veteran bizzer William Roy’s gift for pleasing, eminently singable melodies of a traditional Tin Pan Alley ilk. However easy on the ears, however, these songs clearly came out of the trunk. Connecting them into some sort of loose “book” show is a stretch that proves crippling. Opening number “Counterpoint” is symptomatic, as the four actor/singers simultaneously deliver overly busy lyrics vaguely articulating views of “friendship,” albeit to a most attractive tune. What follows is a batch of decent-to-very-good songs padded by weak skits; intended linking theme of “friends” barely applies to either element.
Writer Michael John Suchomel has drafted little scenarios that play like acting-class scene studies. The humorous bits (man endures chatterbox seatmate on an airplane, greetings from shopping-mall clown “Pete the Penguin”) are mild, but preferable to heavy-handed “serious” episodes. In one, an older couple wax nostalgic in the wake of wife’s terminal cancer prognosis; another, acrimoniously divorced pair tentatively reconcile at a friend’s funeral.
Some of these segs don’t lead into musical numbers — they just sit there, void of context or justification. When they do segue into songs, the fit is often clumsy. A pathos-milking homeless man (Jamie Ross), for instance, sings “Movin’ On,” which sounds like a middle-aged middle-classer’s regretful ode to lost youth. Introductory gab likewise leans toward the irrelevant and trite.
Roy’s lyrics aren’t always an improvement. But his 15 songs include several that would shine in a cabaret setting: The marital-discord soundtrack “Unheard Melody” raids motor-mouthed Sondheim terrain amusingly, while “Lasting Love” is a sweet, melancholy ballad.
The material’s confident Broadway tenor reflects the composer’s background. A onetime Hollywood/radio child actor, Roy logged one long-ago Broadway failure (“Maggie”) and one Off Broadway credit (“The Penny Friend,” with Bernadette Peters) as tunesmith. He’s spent many years as musical director for the likes of Julie Wilson, Julius Monk, Dorothy Dandridge, Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting , Dolores Gray and Peters.
While such old-school song craft is a rare discovery these days, “Scores of Friends” is not its ideal vehicle. S.F. gig follows workshop runs in Ft. Lauderdale and Honolulu, with NYC hopes on the horizon. A complete structural overhaul must occur before this show will be remotely Manhattan-ready.
The cast members — Ross, Julie J. Hafner, Priscilla Quinby, Ron Young — are pleasant and vocally strong, but their pro earnestness can’t make much of the scripted scenes. Director Neal Kenyon tries to keep things moving with minor lighting/blocking gambits, plus Young’s equally modest choreography. Sole accompaniment is provided by Roy and Wayne Hosford on two grand pianos, located behind set’s nondescript geometric panels.