“Girl of My Dreams,” a WWII tuner premiering at Issaquah, Wash.’s Village Theater, has been in stop-and-start development for 15 years, but needs one more stint in musical boot camp. It’s not a washout as a potentially commercial property: It has a smallish cast and modest settings, hummable songs and a nostalgic, mildly patriotic storyline. But its book is flabby in spots, and a little gooey in others: It needs tightening and toughening before it sets out to conquer the world.
The show’s old-fashioned aspirations are apparent from the first production number, which introduces a ragtag troupe of USO performers: A naive blonde (Mariah Anne Taylor); a crackerjack black tap-dancer (Chris Clay); a brassy red-headed singer (Kathryn Van Meter); a cultivated Jewish band leader (Joshua M. Bott); a Hollywood starlet hoping to break into the big time (Taryn Darr); and a green recruit with stars (and the starlet) in his eyes (Eric Ankrim). A bona fide movie star (David John Wilson), shell-shocked from the front and self-medicating with alcohol, completes the band of misfits.
Framing the story is an elderly vet, sitting in his attic, recalling his days with the USO. Requisite scenes of romance, danger, backstage antics and onstage razzmatazz are seen through his eyes.
The whole operation might bog down in predictability if it weren’t for the melodic period-style score by Peter Ekstrom, Steve Hayes and David DeBoy. The title song is a charming, memorable ballad, and three funny showstoppers — “Pin-Up Girls,” “When It’s Over, There in Dover” and “The Ladies Always Go For the Brass” — pile one on top of the other in the middle of the first act. These numbers are well staged by director-choreographer Steve Tomkins and smartly performed.
But in general, the songs are wiser and sprightlier than the book. The old man’s narration is plodding in parts, overly sentimental in others. The obstacles thrown up to impede the central romance (between the appealing Ankrim and Darr) seem artificial. And a subplot about the inequities faced by black servicemen in wartime feels obligatory, too pat. All this together adds up to a show that is close to three hours long and feels longer.
“Girl of My Dreams” may have a future playing in midsized or suburban theaters looking for feel-good tuners to round out their subscription seasons. But it has more miles to march before it’s in top fighting form.