An exuberant John Davidson paints a convincing physical portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, accurately suggesting the 26th President’s quirky look, stance, walk and gestures. And as TR’s devoted second wife Edith, Roxann Parker walks off with the acting honors in a performance of depth, tact and period sensibilities. Despite such virtues, this revised, rewritten and slimmed down version of the “Teddy and Alice” that failed on Broadway in 1987 still isn’t the unappreciated classic musical that the Seven Angels Theater desperately wants it to be.
To begin with, “Teddy and Alice” owes too many debts to other better musicals , notably “The Music Man.” Then there are the problems of the titular female character, “Princess” Alice, TR’s uncontrollable teenagedaughter from his first marriage. As written by Alden and acted in too contemporary a manner by Jennifer Lee Andrews, Alice is far too belligerent, brash and bossy, lacking the charm that Alice must have had. Andrews may simply be too old for the role, though the lovely lace-trimmed floor-length gowns Theoni Aldredge designed for the Broadway production and which are being used again here flatter her.
Another problem is Teddy’s difficulty coping with haunting memories of the beautiful, forever young woman who died giving birth to Alice. Jerome Alden’s book fails to give theatrically convincing reasons why the TR as drawn on the stage flies into such a temper whenever anyone tries to talk about his late first wife.
Mildly entertaining though it and its John Philip Sousa-based score are, “Teddy and Alice” hasn’t been helped by the passing years and seems to be dated beyond redemption, particularly when it comes to its embarrassing finale, a full-cast rally led by TR and sung to the marching tune of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (on Broadway, this “Wave the Flag” number ended the first act). Not even the book rewrites and the new lyrics for some of the songs help enough, though the relationships between Teddy, Alice and Edith do seem to have been strengthened. But the plot is still basically the cliche of the father who hates the very thought of letting his beloved first daughter go off to marry (particularly when the man in question is outspoken congressman Nick Longworth).
Dan Sharkey’s Longworth has presence and an ardent singing voice. Richard Bell, Stephen Carter-Hicks and Bob Freschi as Henry Cabot Lodge, William Howard Taft and Elihu Root play well together as a comic barber-shop trio bemoaning young Alice’s disruptive presence in the White House.
Director Richard Sabellico has given the production pace and tempo but failed to buoy it with any freshness of approach. The production and cast aren’t flattered by a blatant sound system that sends dialogue and lyrics booming out into the audience in an unvaried roar. The one cast member who triumphs over it is Parker.
The few choreographed segments tend to go on too long, although music director Richard DeRosa and his nine-piece off-stage orchestra provide bright musical support.
Robert John Andrusko’s basic White House setting of two high pillars and a trio of draped French windows looks unfinished, particularly the unmasked wings which, distractingly, allow cast members milling about offstage to be seen by the audience. The women’s costumes are marvelous throughout; but in the wedding scene the visual picture is ruined by one man’s trousers being ludicrously short (details like this make all the difference).
“Teddy and Alice” still fails to project itself as a winner despite all the hard work and good intentions of what is the Seven Angels’ most ambitious and expensive production to date, made possible via an anonymous $ 100,000 gift. Dreams of taking this production on tour and ultimately to New York are probably just that dreams.