WHO SAYS they don't make "shows like that" anymore? Connecticut's Goodspeed Opera House has made a name for itself by doing just that -- the troupe is devoted to preserving the best of America's musicals. And the Kennedy Center has installed the Goodspeed's revival of the good-natured 1959 Broadway hit "Take Me Along" at the Eisenhower for a "five-week stay.
Set in turn-of-the-century Connecticut, "Take Me Along" is a perfect valentine of a show, pretty to look at and listen to; sweet, but not very nutritious. With no Message or Meaning to hamper it, the show is just plain entertaining, full of pleasant jokes, several genuinely witty numbers and the kind of old- fashioned staging that has folks flinging their arms open wide when they sing.
Though it's based on Eugene O'Neill's comedy "Ah, Wilderness," the story has devolved into two simultaneous Boy Gets Girl plots. The incidental book is by Joseph Stein and Robert Russell. Bob Merrill's score has that polished professional Broadway quality. This music sounds oddly familiar, with melodic snippets borrowed from the wellspring of every other American musical, but there's not much that will stick to the roof of your memory.
The cast is energetic, and it does the heart good to hear actors singing without amplification. Particularly enjoyable are Kurt Knudson as affable, laughable Uncle Sid; and Beth Fowler as sweet spinster Lily Miller. The pair share a giddy, flirtatious duet called "I Get Embarrassed."
But the spotlight belongs to Gary Landon Wright and Taryn Grimes (daughter of Tammy Grimes). As Richard Miller, an unusually sensitive youth who bears the burdens of the world at an early age, Wright misses some of the character's moonstruck humor. But his adolescent sincerity, male ingenue looks (curly blond hair, shiny black button eyes, etc.) and clear tenor put him center stage. As Muriel, Richard's coy sweetheart, Grimes is a Bernadette Peters-in-progress, a peaches-and-cream dream with a sweet singing voice.
They were made for musicals, and together they shine in the show's best number, the clever "I Would Die," in which the young would-be sweethearts put themselvess in the shoes of the great tragic: lovers of literature.
TAKE ME ALONG -- At the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater through March 10.