"American Pie," a musical revue currently being presented at Columbia Station by Off The Circle Theater Company, appears to have only the slimmest connection to the '60s, the era it purports to evoke. But that's a minor quibble when you consider the production's major flaws.
A compendium of some 30 oldies but goldies from Don ("American Pie") McLean, Laura Nyro and Randy Newman -- two of whom, McLean and Newman, are seldom lumped with that dirty decade -- the show seems to have been thrown together with the kitchen sink in mind. What does McLean's 1971 hit "Vincent," a cloying ode to Van Gogh, have to do with Newman's clever and funny success of 1977, "Short People"?
The evening's confusion is further enhanced by a set festooned with Bicentennial flags, placards from the McGovern and Nixon campaigns of 1972, plus posters of such disparate icons as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne. Then there's the five-member cast -- the men in stiff jeans and open shirts, the women in tunics of red, white and blue -- looking more like refugees from "Up With People" than, as the program suggests, "children of the sixties."
The singing, accompanied by spinnet piano and drums, is for the most part lackluster, the songs are stitched together with extraneous bits of business and Newman's fine, wry numbers -- "We can save Australia,/ Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo," goes the lyric in "Political Science," his 1974 musing on nuclear warfare -- often get butchered.
There are some bright spots -- mostly supplied by Marianne Glass, who seems the most in control of her vocal abilities, especially in Nyro's pretty 1969 ballad, "New York Tendaberry" -- but they aren't enough, alas, to save the show.
AMERICAN PIE -- At Columbia Station through October 9. 667-2700.