It is a sad fact that "The Revue in America" has only three more performances on its short run at the Smithsonian Institution.
It would be difficult to go far wrong with such material -- music and lyrics by such songwriters as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz. Then throw in sketches and book by writers like S. J. Perelman, Ben Hecht, George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.
And the Smithsonian Division of Performing Arts' original production -- a sampling of the exuberant and bouncy revues of the 1930s and 1940s -- doesn't go far wrong. You could question the selection of some of the comedy skits and there are some lapses in performance style, but the production captures the boisterous spirit of this fast-paced entertainment.
Terry Kester, the director, had to work without the resources that produced the stage extravaganzas of shows like "George White's Scandals," "Ziegfeld Follies" and "Earl Carroll Vanities." The seven performers, in tuxedos and evening gowns, perform with only a few props.
But who needs elaborate staging with songs like "Dancing in the Dark" and "April in Paris"? Or the song-sketch routine of "Neurotic You and Psychopathic Me" from the 1948 "Lend an Ear"?
Between acts, the performers give a capsule history of the revue. The earlier short blackout sketches don't always work, but things pick up in the second act with a Kaufman sketch on a Southern family shocked and shamed to find the daughter is still a virgin.The show ends with a hilarious sketch from "Inside U.S.A.," in which a beautiful woman inspires Chopin, Liszt and Tchaikovsky to compose music on the same theme of "burning lips," resulting in their most familiar melodies.
For its show, the Smithsonian has enlisted seven Washington-area performers, most of whom have appeared on the local dinner-theater circuit. They give spirited and enthusiastic performances. Unfortunately, the program doesn't offer any clue to the casts of the separate sketches and songs, so they can be mentioned only in a group -- Brigid Cleary, Gary Johnson, Gene Johnson, Barbara McCulloh, Mark Rendely, Maureen Ribble and Irwin Ziff.
Pianist Bob Vigoda keeps the pace going at a fast clip with help from Tom Cecil on the bass and David Cole on the drums.
The three remaining performances are at 8 p.m. today, 3 and 8 p.m. Sunday in the Baird Auditorium of the Museum of Natural History.