Zippy, zestful, really lots of fun and performed with zeal. How Now, Dow Jones which first opened on Broadway in 1967 has always been a show remembered for its clever lyrics by Carolyn Leigh and its sprightly score by Elmer Bernstein (most famous song being “Step to the Rear”) and its lackluster book by Max Shulman.
It was always a silly story to begin with and in this truncated, scaled down version – revised and directed by Ben West we get some new songs not in the original and the same silly story – which I have to admit has some great satirical moments aimed at Wall Street, some very funny lines, those great lyrics and some charming performances that are sung, praise be, without amplification. Real live voices seem almost unreal but most welcome. I say unreal as we have become so accustomed to hearing the amplified versions that our ears have to adjust to normal levels once again. Terrific.
Not so terrific is the story. Kate (a most delightful and pert Cristen Paige) has been waiting three and a half years for Herbert (a preoccupied Elon Rutberg) to marry her. He will when the Dow reaches 1000. Charley (Colin Hanlon who has wonderful comic timing), a down on his luck and an aw sucks kind of suicidal guy has come to seek his fortune on Wall Street but fails at everything he attempts. Kate and Charley meet and quicker then they can get out of their clothes they spend the night together – they have much in common and she becomes pregnant. Her best friend Cynthia (a miscast Cori Silberman) is after the top CEO Mr. Wingate (a no nonsense Fred Berman who has a mini show stopping moment – they met in a broom closet at the Christmas party) and he sets her up as his mistress only he’s too busy to spend any time with her. Wingate discovers Charley attempting to jump off the ledge outside his office and quicker than he can be rescued he is hired by Wingate for his aw shucks demeanor to sell stocks to rich old widows who in this production are nowhere to be seen.
Dow (Shane Bland) and Jones (Dennis O’Bannion) carry out some clever choreography by Rommy Sandhu that at times is as silly as the plot and seems a bit much for the short show. More work on the book would have been appreciated. Ben West has some amusing directorial bits that are fun but why have Cynthia speak most of her lines upstage? Jim Middleton as Dr. Gilman and A.K. has just the right tone and attitude for this inconsistent cartoon of a musical.
There are so many loose ends here because of the cuts but the actors are so charming and eager to please and sing their songs with great élan that the seventy five or so minutes fly by and we are left with simply having a fun time. Nothing wrong with that. But much more work must be done if they want How Now to have another after life.
NOTE: I appeared as Charley in 1968 at the Canal Fulton Arena. Summer Stock. I was resident juvenile. Mr. Wingate was Edward Everett Horton. Mr. Wingate was much older than Fred Berman – which changes things considerably. It was nice to remember those times and I even remembered some of the scenes and lines after all these years. It’s nice to know that we’re both still around and kicking.