Maybe my expectations were somewhat unreasonable since I was hoping for more from Good News, the first production of the season at the Goodspeed Opera House. This type of show needs a continual dose of musical razz-ma-tazz to offset the silly, but fun, book. Good News delivers, just not often enough.
The musical starts off in grand tap dancing style to the title number of the show, but then settles down to laying out the silly (did I mention fun) plot. Football hero Tom Marlowe needs to pass his astronomy exam in order to play in the big game on Saturday. His girlfriend, Pat, has big plans for the two of them at the post-game dance. However, Tom is falling for his astronomy tutor, Connie, and Coach Johnson is looking to rekindle his romance with the Astronomy Professor whose class, coincidentally, Tom needs to pass. Throw in some college hijinks; a flirtatious co-ed; her excitable, yet reticent target; and a not-so-surprising ending and you have the silly (I did say fun) storyline of the 1927 musical.
Good News has one sensational production number near the end of Act I with the high energy, high stepping “Varsity Drag.” If Director/Choreographer Vince Pesce could have slipped in a few more of these moments into the musical, Good News would soar like a comet across the night lit sky. Instead, the production is more akin to the brightness of some far off star. Vesce does add some nice flourishes to the show, but overall the musical doesn’t shine as brilliantly as it could.
This type of frothy concoction needs a strong, charismatic lead to quarterback the show. Ross Lekites, as collegiate pigskin star Tom Marlowe, has the good looks, but not the magnetic appeal necessary to carry the musical. In fact, it is the supporting cast that really makes a splash in the production as opposed to the main characters. These include Tessa Faye as the full-of-life, Babe O’Day; Barry Shafrin as the object of Babe’s nonstop affection, Bobby Randall; Mark Zimmerman as the irascible and secretly love struck, Coach Johnson; and Beth Glover as the prim and proper, Professor Kenyon.
The score of Good News by the team of B.G. DeSylva, Lew Brown, and Ray Henderson is a treasure trove of celebrated tunes including “Just Imagine,” “The Best Things in Life are Free,” “Lucky in Love,” “Button Up Your Overcoat,” and “Keep Your Sunny Side Up.” The songs enliven the production just when it needs a good shot in the arm.
Good News, more like satisfactory news, now at the Goodspeed Opera House through June 22nd.