×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

I Got Merman

Amon Miyamoto's "I Got Merman" has been a long-running hit in Japan. Now the director's tribute to the late Ethel Merman has opened in the U.S. with an American cast. Merman has scarcely been left uncelebrated in this country, and so bringing "I Got Merman" Stateside is something of a coals-to-Newcastle enterprise.

With:
Liz - Sandy Binion
Hattie - Becca Ayers
Blossom - Andi Hopkins
Onstage pianists - Jan Rosenberg, Sarah Jane Cion

Amon Miyamoto’s “I Got Merman” has been a long-running hit in Japan. Now the Japanese director’s tribute to the late Ethel Merman has opened in the U.S. with an American cast. Merman has scarcely been left uncelebrated in this country since her death in 1984, with many a cabaret singer drawing on her repertoire, and so bringing “I Got Merman” Stateside is something of a coals-to-Newcastle enterprise.

The show is a wild mixture of the very good (the songs), the good (the singers and the two pianists), the not-so-good (the book, direction and choreography) and the truly awful (the hideous, badly made costumes). Overall, it is difficult to see what slot it could legitimately fill in America.

“I Got Merman” is basically a cabaret revue that strings together a generous number of Merman songs with biographical bits and pieces. Three women — two white, one black — portray Merman (though without, for the most part, attempting to sound like her). The book encourages them to vie for the spotlight, bickering with and even kicking one another (in a “Friendship” trio), a gimmick that becomes tiresome.

All three — Sandy Binion, Becca Ayers and Andi Hopkins — are talented and manage to rise above their ghastly dresses. They’re ably aided by pianists Jan Rosenberg and Sarah Jane Cion, who sit beneath the too-basic set’s three metal arches outlined in light bulbs.

The arrangements are imaginative and skillful, including a slow, sad “Blue Skies” after we’ve been told of the suicides of Merman’s second husband, Bob Levitt, and their daughter. There’s an effective merging of the songs “Riding High” and “Together,” and “Some People” is used autobiographically early on by a Merman who is, at this point, an office typist longing to be a performer.

All three women make the most of their individual moments in lighting designer Paul Gallo’s multicolored spotlights, and they work well together.

Unfortunately, the book by Miyamoto and American Dan W. Davis offers little real insight into either Merman the woman or Merman the performer. And Miyamoto’s staging and choreography is too often hokey, including trips up and down the aisles, and songs sung while sitting in the laps of audience members.

When the show rises above its obvious deficiencies, it’s not without entertainment value. But a lot of weeding out of its dumber bits seems crucial for the U.S. market.

I Got Merman

Stamford Center for the Arts' Rich Forum, Stamford, Conn.; 750 seats; $40 top

Production: A Michael A. Jenkins, Kumiko Yoshii and Michael Wolk presentation, in association with Tokyo Broadcasting System, Dallas Summer Musicals and Gorgeous Entertainment, of a musical revue in two acts with book by Amon Miyamoto and Dan W. Davis. Directed, choreographed by Miyamoto. Musical direction, Jan Rosenberg.

Creative: Set, Randel Wright; costumes, Willa Kim; lighting, Paul Gallo; sound, Abe Jacob; production stage manager, John C. McNamara. Stamford Center for the Arts executive director, George E. Moredock III. Opened Sept. 18, 2001, reviewed Sept. 21. Running time: 1 HOUR, 45 MIN.

Cast: Liz - Sandy Binion
Hattie - Becca Ayers
Blossom - Andi Hopkins
Onstage pianists - Jan Rosenberg, Sarah Jane Cion

More Legit

  • Bryan Cranston on the Exhausting Joys

    Listen: Bryan Cranston on the Exhausting Joys of Broadway

    For anyone who doubts that being a Broadway actor can be grueling, let Bryan Cranston set you straight. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a cumulative effect of fatigue that happens on the Broadway schedule that no amount of sleep the night before is going to wash away,” the Emmy and Tony-winning actor [...]

  • Jeff Daniels Variety Broadway to Kill

    How 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Beat the Odds to Deliver a Broadway Smash

    Jeff Daniels slumps into a chair in the Shubert Theatre, grasping an oversize Starbucks and looking bone-crushingly exhausted. His eyelids are heavy, and he seems like a man in desperate need of rest. It’s easy to understand why. It’s late March, and Daniels has just given his 100th Broadway performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town attorney [...]

  • ZZ Top, Caesars Entertainment Team on

    ZZ Top, Caesars Team for Jukebox Musical 'Sharp Dressed Man' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ZZ Top and Caesars Entertainment are developing “Sharp Dressed Man,” a jukebox musical set to open next year in Las Vegas featuring the band’s greatest hits. Members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are all serving as executive producers. “Sharp Dressed Man” is described as an “outrageous, [...]

  • Williamstown Theater Festival 2016 season

    Marisa Tomei Starring in Broadway Revival of 'The Rose Tattoo'

    Marisa Tomei will star in the Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo.” The Oscar-winning actress will play Serafina, a part previously performed by the likes of Maureen Stapleton and Anna Magnani. It’s also a role that Tomei is familiar with, having starred in a Williamstown Theatre Festival production in 2016. “The Rose Tattoo” [...]

  • White Pearl review

    London Theater Review: 'White Pearl'

    Playwright Anchuli Felicia King dismantles the Asian market in this misfiring satire at London’s Royal Court Theatre. “White Pearl” makes a case that those seeking to make inroads into the Far East, perceiving a new El Dorado, are no better that colonial conquistadors of an earlier age — and entirely unequipped to understand the specifics [...]

  • Signature Theatre Celebrates Millionth Subsidized Ticket

    Signature Theatre Offers $35 Subsidized Tickets, Celebrates Millionth Sold

    Just the other night, a Manhattan cab driver told Signature Theatre executive director Harold Wolpert that he couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend to a show. In response, Wolpert motioned to his theater, saying that they offer $35 subsidized tickets. The driver said he’d try it out. “It was a great moment,” Wolpert said. “We’re [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content