Ahhh … another “opening night premiere” invitation to an online streaming production; this time to an off-Broadway musical concisely titled “Marry Harry.” And that in a nutshell tells you everything you need to know about a somewhat contrived plot.
Don’t get me wrong. The actors are energetic and likable in this cast of seven. But it’s the story line. Written by Jennifer R. Manocherian and directed and choreographed by Bill Castellino, the 2017 York Theatre Company musical is predictably bland, sparse and well, nice.
But it’s a plot we’ve seen before over and over. I kept waiting for a punch, a twist, some excitement, even a meatball to fall since it’s set in an East Village Italian restaurant (“at the corner of Fifth and A”), but it doesn’t happen. There isn’t a song you’ll remember or have seared on your heart although “More Than Make Believe” comes close. It’s just a calm, quiet, romantic, 80-minute musical with light music by Dan Martin and lyrics by Michael Biello.
Here’s the plot: Little Harry is a short-order cook at his dad’s, Big Harry's, restaurant. He yearns to be a sous chef at NYC’s Felidia, celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich’s restaurant. (Yes, the restaurant really exists and yes, there’s even a song dedicated to her!) Little Harry is awaiting word about his application to escape and doesn’t quite know how to tell his father.
At a chic wedding shop next door, Sherri is shopping with her stylish Uptown mother (who drops more names like Vera Wang and the Ritz in Paris), when she learns her fiancé Brandon is cheating on her with a famous model. Well, guess who meet each other in the alley behind their respective places of agony. And, actually, that brief scene’s dialogue is quite humorous.
David Spadora as Little Harry is cute, with a pleasant voice, and makes his almost 30-year-old character credibly sweet and a convincing dreamer. His counterpart, Diane Phelan as Sherri, is a smart actress with a soaring soprano voice. They connect, but I wish they had meatier roles.
Veanne Cox as Francine, Sherri’s overbearing mother, has the chops to be both a tough and tender character, and has a scene about eloping that almost steals the show and is all too brief. Paul Salvatoriello is a wonderful Big Harry, probably the most developed character, who genially involves his son in his harebrained food schemes trying to stay afloat financially. Salvatoriello has a powerful singing voice and emotive face.
The three actors, aka The Village Voices, who serve as backup singers, dancers and most of the comic relief, are gleeful; the four other characters, of course, can’t see or hear them. Jesse Manocherian, Tony Melson and Kim Steele are a Bob Fosse-moving Greek chorus of talented muses.
Of course, there’s a happy ending after a not so credible hitch in the plot. I’m not quite so certain that “Marry Harry” wouldn’t be a better summer TV sitcom or a Food Network special. For me, “Marry Harry” is a one night stand.
But a few words about Streaming Musicals; it’s a relatively new production company only in existence two years and dedicated to presenting new and original musicals to international audiences. All their productions are filmed on theatrical stages or sound stages.
The best thing about their shows is there's never a closing night. You can rent ($4.99) or buy ($19.99) and watch anytime you want. And here's what is admirable about Streaming Musicals – with "Marry Harry," they teamed up with Food Tank to feed hungry and impacted families (donate at foodtank.com or MarryHarry.com), and with all their productions, artists are supported by Streaming Musicals' profit-sharing program.
Truly, it’s no substitute for live theater, but while we wait for the long COVID-19 pause to end, Streaming Musicals sure is helping keep theater alive and audiences entertained. And for that I say, "Bravo!"
• Regina Belt-Daniels has been in the theater ever since Sister Mary Justia had the wisdom to cast her as a rather bossy Mother Goose in Holy Cross’ first-grade production. When not in her recliner watching theatrical productions or attending ZOOM meetings, Regina hopes soon to continue what she loves to do best: act, direct, teach, travel with her husband, write theater reviews, and serve enthusiastically on theater boards throughout Illinois.
If you view
WHAT: "Marry Harry" musical
WHERE: Online viewing
COST: Rent for $4.99 or buy for $19.99