Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Lacking focus. "Spotlight" never even glows. The National's new musical, here through Feb. 4, is about the musical movie male who loses wives, children and possessions, and though Gene Barry.TV's Bat Masterson, doesn't get very far with him, neither would a combination of Fred Astaire, Van Johnson and Carleton Carpenter, who is, by the way, Barry's stand-by.
The basic problem is that Sheldon R. Lubliner's production is short-circuited pretty much down the line. It's hard to recall such ugly costumes, such awkward scenery, such graceless staging, such dreary dancing.
The book by Richard Seff and the direction of David Black can't seem to decide what "Spotlight" is to be - a spoof, a sentimental journey of a passe movie star, a study of parent and children, a satire of a hundred grade-B flicks, or what?
This indecision permeates the show from the overture, during which some voices seem to have a role, much like the way, "Promises, Promises" began with Bert Bachrach's score. When finally the curtain rises, we are in the present-day Beverly Hills home of Jack Beaumont, where a small "crowd" of buyers comes to bid on mementos of a star. A white top hat and cane prompt him to go back over the movie career which, it is assured, made him a household name.
So, we make the dreary, familiar trek back, back, back to the first wife who seduced him into marriage, the second wife who used honey talk for the same purpose and the angular female analyst who employed the couch for community property.
Since both D'Jamin Bartlett, who sang "The Miller's Song" in "A Little Night Music," and David-James Carroll, an appealing lad with an appealing voice, are first-class and vibrant "Spotlight" gleams a bit with them.
The point, such as it is, seems to be reached with the welcome appearance of Polly Rowles, who, all these years ago created "Auntie Mame's Vera Charles on the same stage
Her scene - an intimidated but thrilled fan who confesses that Jack Beaumont's movies gave her and her husband the courage to make their first trip to France - signals the point of "Spotlight." In other words, the illusions created in total strangers have made Dad's life as a movie star purposeful.
Rowles gives her scene real class. But what comes before is so aimless, inept and boring that the only hope is to re-write from scratch.
With the exceptions of Bartlett, Rowles, Carroll, Bresler and Duddy, I seem to have knocked everything but the chorus girls' knees and, there, as Percy Hammond once put it, God anticipated me.