Promises, Promises

Now at Camelot Theatre in Talent, "Promises, Promises" lives up to its promises for it is altogether a richly satisfying musical. Moreover, it is worth seeing alone for the emergence of a brilliant young actor, Jeremy Johnson, who as Chuck Baxter climbs the corporate ladder in the Consolidated Life Insurance Company of New York by giving the key to his bachelor apartment to executives to indulge their illicit amours and thereby improve his status. He is hardly a commendable character, but gains in stature and charm. It's almost as if the role were written for him. It is a performance to savor. Variety praised Jerry Orbach, the original creator, as "superb" and described his interpretation as "half slickie, half schlemiel, but always endearing."

"Promises, Promises" is based on the 1960 screenplay by Billy Wilder and L.A.L. Diamond. Neil Simon wrote the book of the musical, Burt Bacharach the music, and Hal David the lyrics. The show opened in New York in 1968 and ran for 1281 performances. Simon cleverly interspersed asides that enabled Chuck to talk to the audience and arouse their sympathy.

Bacharach studied with classical composer Darius Milhaud and had a solid background in arranging before he became an Oscar-winning film composer, with his odd combination of rhythm and blues and classical music. He admits to composing melodies in his head and with his voice; he stays away from the piano in the early stages because his fingers automatically fall upon familiar chords and tunes. He has a vast number of contemporary songs to his credit, such as "I Say a Little Prayer," "Walk on ," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" and "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." Many were launched by Dionne Warwicke, the prime interpreter.

On all levels, Camelot Theatre's production is eminently watchable and enjoyable, as livelily directed by Livia Genise and graced by the delightful choreography of Rebecca K. Campbell, as in "She Likes Basketball" and "Turkey Lurkey Time." The ingenious scenic design by Donald Zastoupil &

a panorama of New York City &

uses miniature models that are detached from time to time and serve as props. Emily Ehrlich Inget's costume design is remarkable - so many changes, so many colors. The sound design is by Brian O'Connor; lighting by Bart Grady.

There are many pleasures in the acting. Is there a villain in the piece? Perhaps it is J. D. Sheldrake, the head honcho of the insurance company, performed by Don Matthews whose cool aplomb and shabby treatment of Fran Kubelik earn him a shower of boos, worthy of old-time melodrama.

Another treat comes from Bruce Lorange as the wisecracking Jewish Dr. Dreyfuss, Chuck Baxter's next door neighbor. He has such a command of comedy. It seems he earns a laugh a line. And then there's Paula Flowers as Marge MacDougall, an exuberant kookie, whom Chuck picks up in a seedy 8th Avenue bar and takes to his apartment. They share a ditty, "A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing." Flowers hails from Seattle and is known for improvisational night-club comedy.

The Greek Chorines are a trio of back-up singers/dancers &

Amanda Andersen, Alessandra Jenkins, and Mae Jeffs. The privileged "execs" &

Dobitch (Brandon Manley), Vanderhof (Sam Cowan), Eichelberger (Heiland Hoff), and Kirkeby (Sunshine Bucy) - have a rollicking routine in "Where Can You Take a Girl?"

Shannon McReynolds as Fran Kubelik has a wistful air to her and is appropriately cool to the advances of J.D. Sheldrake but appealingly warm in her interludes with Chuck, specially their duet on guitars when they promise "I'll Never Fall in Love Again."

The musical director/keyboard is Gwen Overland, with Aaron Blenkush on keyboards and Bryan Jeffs on percussion.

"Promises, Promises" plays through July 27 at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees on July 6, 13, 20, 27 at 2 p.m. Call 535-5250.

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