THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM: Through June 11 at Ford's Theater.
If you took "Oklahoma!" and moved it around in time and space - a bit to the east and also to the south, a couple of centuries back in story time and a couple of decades ahead in stage style - you would have "The Robber Bridegroom," the musical at Ford's.
This result is a rather peculiar one for what started as a Eudora Welty story, but it still makes a rousing show. If you didn't know that all those energetic, slaphappy Southerners had once been the strange creatures of Welty's South, you would find them an acceptable stable of musical-comedy characters. They have just enough verve to overcome the lack of imagination involved in such types as the Wicked Stepmother, the Dashing Outlaw and the Idiot Boy.
The production has been touring for some time and had a successful stop in New York City; its acting and staging mesh expertly to produce two straight hours of high spirits without let-up or let-down. Two of the leads, Glynis Bell and Tom Wopat, do every thing that can be expected with their parts, but three others - Rhonda Coullet as the comic heroine, Trip Plymale as the blinking idiot, Rosalind Harris as a bird - do more.
As the songs are pleasant, although not memorable, and the pace exhilarating; the show is fun. But it's unfortunate that the quality of Welty's South was tossed away in the excitement - not because such a contribution should be preserved for its own sake, but because this leaves only the quality known in comedy as "zaniness." It's good to see zaniness well done, but sad to know that this could have had something more.