DAY BY DAY, a revue with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, conceived by Frank Bartolucci and Ernie Zulia, directed by Ernie Zilia; choreography by David Holdgreiwe; scenery by Neil Peter Jampous; costumes by Carol Oditz; lighting by Spencer Mosse.
With Scott Bakula, Valerie Karasek, Carolyn McCurry, Beth McVey and James Rich.
At Ford's Theatre through April 6.
If there was a bond uniting those who grew up along West End Avenue between the Korean and Vietnam wars, it was the conviction that surely no one would ever write a song about the street we lived on.
New York City's West End Avenue, you have to understand, was (and blessedly remains) such a monotonous artery that even its natives have to check the street signs to tell one gray block from another. So when Stephen Schwartz came along and set the old thoroughfare to words and music (for "The Magic Show"), he scored a hit with me. Here was one songwriter, it seemed, who could take his inpiration where he found it -- who could, lyrically speaking, squeeze water from a stone.
Schwartz has proved to be one of the most successful musical-comedy men of the 1970s. Three of his shows, "Godspell," "Pippin" and "The Magic Show," occupied Broadway stages simultaneously. So it was probably inevitable that someone, sooner or later, would wrap a collection of Schwartz songs into a revue.
It should have been later. For all their energy and popularity Schwartz's scores and songs have tended to strike the same moods and themes again and again, and so does "Day by Day," which opened at Ford's Theatre last night. It is a lively show, performed by five talented singer/dancers. But it and they wear a relentless unvarying grin from start to finish. Consistency may be a commendable quality in a pudding, but not in a revue.
The strongest suit of this production, which originated at Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park and came to Washington by way of Boston, is the singing. The two men and three wome in the cast have loud, confident voices. Valerie Karasek and Beth McVey, in particular, are knockout singers, and the whole company has managed to conquer the sound barrier at Ford's that has rendered some past musical productions fitfully incomprehensible.
At the beginning of the show, the players assumed roles as a hard-hat, a typist, a cashier, a waitress and a lineworker on "Working," the musical Schwartz wrote and directed from Studs Turkel's book of the same title. As the evening advances, they move on to songs and medleys from other Schwartz musicals, assuming the appropriate personas. On occasion, they join hands or throw their arms over each other's shoulders, and now and again engage in a little dance or mime, but for the most part of posture of the production is your basic stand-and-sing.
But in this day of ever-louder, ever-more-vivid home audio equipment, the old institution of the musical-comedy revue has an increased obligation to be something more than a songfest. The staging and choreography of "Day by Day" range from standard to minimal. Without real inspiration in these departments this is an entertainment not far beyond what a stereo system could deliver in your living room (and not far different if you possess the albums from the Schwartz shows in question).
Still, there are pleasures here for those who do not as well as those who do harbor deep feelings for West End Avenue. "Proud Lady," a particularly catching number from "The Baker's Wife," has Scott Bakula singing thusly of a woman whose put-downs emphatically have not put him off: "In a voice as sweet as wine, She tells me I'm a swine. She's obviously mine."
James Rich gives a vigorous, funny rendition of "Boing," a song about the joys of having a paper route. If Rich could recover from a chronic case of the cutes, however, he would make a much more substantial contribution to the evening.