Anderson (left) as Herb Lee, Shawn Galligan as Benjy Stone,
Jim McCormack as Sy Benson, Rachel Spence as Alice Miller, and
John J. Polk as King Kaiser perform a scene from the Beck Center
production of "My Favorite Year." (Photo courtesy of Stephen
Center’s old-fashioned musical blends two eras
By Art Thomas
Published May 28, 2008
on a film, the stage musical incarnation of “My Favorite Year” is
a traditional musical, with a book and songs that further the plot,
but it is not an easy show to produce. At the Beck Center, you’ll
see a production just about as fully realized as it can be.
Remember the film in which Peter O’Toole was a heavy-drinking
stage star reduced to a guest star status on the newly discovered
national pastime: television? That is a nutshell description of
the show. Narrated by a wide-eyed writer anxious to make his mark
as a sketch writer for the King Kaiser TV show, “My Favorite Year”
also has some elements of romance.
Shawn Galligan is Benjy Stone, remembering 1954. It
was his “favorite year,” not his best year. Most of television was
live then, and everyone flew by the seat of their pants, hoping
that the live studio audiences would let the families watching on
their calculator-sized screens at home realize how much fun the
Galligan’s clear voice and unflagging enthusiasm starts
this show off right with a big production number. Then we go to
the writer’s room, where a trio of seasoned pros is alternately
cooperative and competitive to get their material on stage and to
please King Kaiser.
John Polk plays the egotistical Kaiser with dead on
success. Chomping a cigar and barking orders, Polk’s Kaiser is less
aware than those around him of what is going on, and the results
are broad humor at its best.
Into this picture comes Matthew Wright as Alan Swann.
He’ll be part of a comic musketeers sketch — if he can remain sober.
This doesn’t seem possible through the rehearsals. By the way —
kudos are in order for John Davis’ masterful swordfight choreography.
Wright’s Swann has the experience to back up his pronouncements
and he keeps the character at least somewhat likeable — a weakness
of the script, especially in the first act.
If live television and fading stars aren’t your cup
of tea, you can watch the romance develop between Stone and K.C.
Downing, played by Therese Kloos. Or there’s a frighteningly real
“home scene” in which Swann shares a meal with Stone’s overbearing
mother, Belle. Here played to perfection by Jean Zarzour, Belle
is matched with Joey Cayabyab as third husband Rookie Carroca.
Beck’s “My Favorite Year” is held together by Fred
Sternfeld’s disciplined direction, Martin Cespedes’ neat choreography,
and Larry Goodpaster’s crisp musical direction.
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