A PARTY WITH BETTY COMDEN AND ADOLPH GREEN -- At the Terrace Theater through February 18.
Amplified sound and coarse jokes having driven tuneful and amusing acts out of the supper clubs, it's good to see how well one such act fits in the Kennedy Center's new Terrace Theater.
"A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green" consists of the two musical-comedy writers singing public favorites from their hit musicals and their private favorites from flops or forgotten shows. The talk-show chitchat about how glad they are to be here and the "wonderful people" they've worked with is kept to a minimum.
But they have worked with wonderful composers, such as Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne and, in their current Broadway show "On the Twentieth Century," Cy Coleman; and their lyrics are certainly wonderful, too, if the show-business usage of that word translates as both good and clever.
There are such well-remembered hits as New York, New York" from "On the Town," "Captain Hook's Waltz" from "Peter Pan" and "Ohio" from "Wonderful Town"; and some that are less recognizable, such as "If," a torch song with a funny element of fed-up-ness in it, written for Lena Horne, who did not end up singing it in "Two on the Aisle"; and "Inspiration," a goofy satire written for "Bonanza Bound," a show that failed.
Comden half apologized for "Inspiration" and another song, "100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man," saying that they might have been written differently in times of raised consciousnesses. But their frank, funny and good-humored lyrics wear well.
They're also done well, despite Comden and Green's caveat that they were written to be performed by the likes of Judy Holliday, Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard. The charm of Comden and Green as performers is that they look the part so little. He looks like a satirical line drawing of a renowned scholar, and she like a New York matron who has worked her way up from Better Dresses to the best. So when they throw themselves into outlandish parts -- she an aloof but erotic baroness to his proud but amorous goatherd, she a smug movie star to his taunting failed producer -- it seems a great favor.
It seems that they're knocking themselves out to entertain us, and it makes the party a success.