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The Goodbye Girl

Book by Neil Simon, music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by David Zippel
Szpiezak Productions
Upstairs at the Gatehouse

The Goodbye Girl

The musical adaptation of the 1977 movie (which won a Best Actor Oscar for Richard Dreyfus) gets a rare revival under director Adam Lenson, energised by lively choreography from Claira Vaughan and an enthusiastic young cast.

Hoofer Paula McFadden is the “Goodbye Girl” who tends to get dumped by ill-chosen boyfriends. Now the latest has not only disappeared, deserting Paula and her daughter Lucy, but has sublet their apartment. When new tenant Elliot Garfield turns up expecting to take possession, it looks as though they could be homeless.

When compromise prevails and Garfield moves in, an uneasy tolerance gradually grows into a love-hate relationship on the way to blossoming into a real romance.

Meanwhile, as actor Garfield goes into rehearsals as the Crookback in the Off-Off-Broadway production of Shakespeare’s Richard III that has brought him to New York, Paula tries to get back on her feet as a dancer.

“A Beat Behind” is an hilarious send-up of a dance class as Paula struggles to get back in form. Meanwhile Garfield finds himself facing a quirky Hungarian director who wants the Duke of Gloucester played as “a man playing a woman playing a man” and without his hunchback.

Mark Turnbull gives the concept-driven director an East-European intensity and designer Suzi Lombardelli interprets his crazy ideas in a costume that includes a black lace bustier that helps production number “Richard Interred” get its laughs along with Richard’s fake falsetto.

Personally, I didn’t find that very funny but Paul Keating is an excellent Elliot Garfield, much less neurotic than Dreyfus in the movie. He has such a cuddly charisma that Paula couldn’t help but fall for him, even when played as defensive as Rebecca Bainbridge makes her. This Paula has been seriously damaged by previous relationships and it shows.

Olivia Hallett is a confident Lucy (sharing the role with Shannon Beach), though her high register is not always clearly comprehensible. Thank goodness she is there to help steer her mother towards a happy ending. With Denise Pitter as neighbour Mrs Crosby making the most of her brief appearances and a zippy ensemble to brighten things up, eventually romance does wins over distrust, but this production has a bleak touch to it that could make conclusions uncertain.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton