Steve Dawson, Jenny Abreu and Berry Ayers in the Golden Apple’s Cheerful Little Earful.
You may have to be of a certain age to recall some of composer Harry Warren’s songs, which are saluted in the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre’s current show, Cheerful Little Earful. But many of them will be familiar to any music, film or stage loving person of any generation; the prolific Mr. Warren was, after all, responsible for the melodies to such frequently rendered hits as 42nd Street, At Last, Chattanooga Choo Choo and You’ll Never Know.
Those songs and more—quite a few more, I’d say close to 50 in all—are part of the mix in Cheerful Little Earful, which is a revamping of a show done decades ago at the Golden Apple, with dialogue by Robert Ennis Turoff (who also directs and doubles as Warren’s occasionally heard voice, emanating from a photo hanging over the stage) and arrangements by musical director Don Sturrock. The revue presents the numbers mostly in chronological order, starting with the 1920s ditty I Love My Baby and proceeding through the Depression-era 1930s and World War II years, when Warren and a host of lyricist collaborators were contributing hit song after hit song to the movies, at several Hollywood studios.
Many of those tunes, at least in the first act here, feel merely pleasant; there’s a certain lack of focus, and, on opening night, the cast even seemed a little uncertain of their lines or moves. Things improved in the second half, which boasted a slew of memorable Warren productions, including Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat (performed by Berry Ayers with a Carmen Miranda flair and drag queen costume), That’s Amore (a Dean Martin hit performed here with gusto by Steve Dawson), and some of Warren’s best ballads, several of them featuring Sarah Cassidy, alone or in tandem, such as The More I See You and You Wonderful You.
The romantic songs are balanced by some patriotic tunes, novelty numbers and, in the show’s big closing spot, those beloved standards from 42nd Street, like Shuffle Off to Buffalo, About a Quarter to Nine and We’re in the Money. Some other numbers that stand out: Helen Holliday vamping it up on Lulu’s Back in Town, Jenn Abreu on The Little Things You Used to Do and the ensemble on I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo and the Oscar-winning Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.
Lots of musical memories will be summoned with this show, even if one wishes for more drive and zest in some of the numbers, which are mostly performed with minimal choreography. Cheerful Little Earful continues through Nov. 27; call 366-5454 or go to thegoldenapple.com.