SHOW ME WHERE THE GOOD TIMES ARE, book by Lee Thuna, suggested by Moliere's "The Imaginary Invalid"; music by Kenneth Jacobson; lyrics by Rhonda Roberts; directed by Joseph Lewis; choreographed by Fred Greene; costumes by Virginia Schwartz; with Joseph P. Normile, Janet Dickson, Maisle Mountcastle, Christina Clark, Tony Elliot, Tony Reich and Michael Pressimone.
At the Hartke Theatre through May 3.
"Show Me Where the Good Times Are" wants to be an old-fashioned, spirit-raising musical comedy, and it has a few of the necessary ingredients. All it lacks is that intangible, indefinable, invaluable thing called inspiration.
Composer Kenneth Jacobson and lyricist Rhoda Roberts have supplied a light, bouncy, Jerry Hermanesque score. Librettist Lee Thuna has supplied, with help from Moliere's "The Imaginary Invalid," a whimsical book involving young love, greed and hypochondria among immigrant Jews on New York's Lower East Side (just before World War I). The fast-moving scenery includes a great painted backdrop of lower Manhattan, with a portion of the Brooklyn Bridge visible behind the skyline.
There is a great deal of professionalism about this production, which opened Tuesday night at Catholic University's Hartke Theatre. Although the comic acting is more noteworthy for its energy than its subtlety, the carefully crafted lyrics are well sung, and the voices and orchestra well balanced. And the dance and ensemble numbers are adroitly staged and smoothly blended into the overall flow of things.
But underneath the surface gaiety, "Show Me Where the Good Times Are" is tired and formulaic. Most of the songs could have been written for a thousand other shows and a thousand other situations. The plot relies on abrupt, unconvincing turnabouts that no one, including authors and cast, seems to particularly believe in. The setting seems to have been picked from a hat or in flattering imitation of "Hello Dolly!" rather than, because the authors had anything much to say about the people and period with which they are dealing. And as for the accents, well, they remind us that the name of the school is, indeed, the Catholic University of America.