The Broadway Theater has been remodeled into a large Theater-In-The-Round to accommodate Dude, the new musical which I saw at its last preview performance. Dude is subtitled, "The Highway Life", and it is the name of a character the play follows from birth through young manhood. Actually, any book or story line is barely existent and is used to propel the show from one musical number to the next, with machine-gun rapidity.
Tom O'Horgan has staged the production with overhanging platforms, trapezes, trapdoors, and bizarre costumes. The large cast mingles with the audience by running around the stage, across the aisles and up and down stairs in a constant and frenzied state of movement. It is almost as though Mr. O'Horgan feared someone might fall asleep without all this gimmickry and whirlwind pacing.
Galt MacDermot has written a prodigious score of rock and country music for the production. Unfortunately, I found it largely unmemorable and as one selection ran into the next, the music and lyrics of one number became, for me, indistinguishable from the music and lyrics of another.
The show did have it's moments. Delores Hall, as the character Bread, is possessed with a huge, magnificent voice and she, deservedly, stopped the proceedings with her only solo of the show. Salome Bey as Mother Earth can deliver a song with great effect and because she has a larger role, she truly makes her presence in the cast felt. Ralph Carter as the child Dude, is a young actor of considerable charm and talent. Rae Allen as Reba has some of the shows funniest lines and she delivers them with her casual style that makes the lines appear off-hand.
The show never really takes itself too seriously and the cast, which includes many children, is attractive and hard working. They produced a rousing finale that was never matched earlier in the evening. A pleasant air of informality is projected and, sometimes, just a hint of spontaneity. Although, I can't honestly say I was enthralled, I was seldom bored.
Copyright National Public Radio. All rights reserved.