Blueprint Specials

Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and others, book by Arnold M Auerbach and others
Waterwell
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York

Blueprint Specials

The Public Theater’s Under the Radar programme can rarely have found a less conventional venue than the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on the Hudson. One attraction may have been the chance for the Festival to stage a show that might literally have taken place under a radar.

The Intrepid is a decommissioned WWII aircraft carrier with planes, helicopters and other exhibits sharing a deck with a mixed group of performers.

While the majority of the cast in this Waterwell production directed by Tom Ridgley might be stage regulars, a fair number are currently serving in the forces. Pleasingly, until the curtain call when they all appear in civvies (or uniform), it was less than obvious who fitted into which category, so well-drilled were the officers.

Having said that, the leads were immediately distinguishable, their presence a compliment not only to them but the company, which persuaded seasoned stars to take part in a short run.

Lord Lloyd Webber might be in for a bit of a shock, since the musical maestro may well believe that he invented the pre-packed musical production.

A visit to Blueprint Specials will show his Lordship that the concept stretches back at least 70 years and maybe much longer.

The idea was that a creative team, many of whom were serving, would generate a musical that could be franchised around the globe as a means of taking soldiers’ minds off the vicissitudes of war. As it happens, one of the team was Frank Loesser in pre-Guys and Dolls days.

The 110-minute extravaganza is compiled from the best of the four BPs, which has pros and cons.

On the plus side, we were presumably witnessing the pick of the material, some of which was probably more than a little thin. Against that, the plotting is rarely deep, primarily following the trials and tribulations of Pallas (Athena) charmingly played and sung by ex-Cinderella Laura Osnes, after she fights with Will Swenson as Jupiter and leaves the heavens to become “First Class Private Mary Brown” as the catchy song has it and join the army along with a group of equally independent gals (as they would have been known).

Once there, she and her colleagues are bullied unmercifully by a terrifying Sergeant but sing and dance their way out of the blues accompanied by a Big Band, Miss Osnes proving particularly intoxicating.

The goddess also gets a little bit mushy over the unlikely figure of the very witty Quinn Mattfield’s Sad Sack, a Schweik-like figure who eventually took on semi-mythical status as the ultimate loser, prior to a soppy but rather sweet ending.

The songs are generally upbeat, which helps the dance routines, with an assortment of composers in addition to Frank Loesser, of whom Ruby Jane Douglass is particularly memorable.

Ultimately, Blueprint Specials is a well-presented variety show that helps viewers to understand what was done to alleviate the stresses of war and also showcases much talent and an extraordinary venue.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher