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‘Mischief’ Loads of Fun
By EMORY LEWIS
Drama Critic - The RECORD, May 13, 1974
"Man With A Load of Mischief” was revived this weekend at the Equity Library
It’s instant delight.
The champagne musical was presented first in New York in 1966 at the Jan Hus House. The original cast album on the Kapp label is one of the most frequently played albums of theater music in my personal collection.
The 1924 play, on which the musical is based, was created by England’s Ashley
Dukes. It is a tale of romance and intrigue set in a wayside inn in England in
the early 19th Century. A sudden accident to a coach and a gallant rescue brings
to this inn four adventuresome people — a lovely lady, her maid, a dashing lord,
and his manservant. The stage is set for romance.
As it turns out, the lady, a former actress, is weary of being a prince’s mistress. She is eager to run away and leave behind the wicked life she has led. She finally escapes with the manservant to a new life abroad, far from the rigid system of the English court.
Quality of style
This musical has a rare and special quality—style. It is permeated with a
special sense of romance. This show has a lilt to it.
Few composers could equal this delightful score. John Clifton has composed some of the freshest and most melodious tunes I’ve heard in quite a spell. The duets, trios, and quintets follow one another in banquet profusion. They include such gems as "Romance," "A Friend Like You," "Man With A Load of Mischief," "Masquerade," and "Make Way For My Lady."
Clifton coauthored the witty and literate lyrics with Ben Tarver. Tarver’s
book brilliantly analyzes a specific, period of English history, that
fascinating transition period when 18th Century "reason" was blending with 19th
Clifton and Tarver are superior theater talents…
The entire evening is choreographed. Every gesture by the actor singers is a dance movement, subtly augmenting the story line. Director Joseph F. Leonard has seen to it that individual contributions merge into one stylish whole. I like the way he has the actors perform a stately minuet as they set the table.
The orchestra, too, is a gem. After the blasting, over-raucous orchestras on
Broadway, this inspired group constitutes an elegant relief…The small cast is
superb. Gloria Zaglool, who made her Broadway debut in the recent, ill starred
revival of "The Desert Song," is equally talented as singer and actress. Edward
Penn has a rich voice and the right romantic air for the character of the
Brad Tyrrell perfectly expressed the bored sophistication of the nobility. Pert red haired Freyda Ann Thomas, making her New York debut, moves around the stage with enormous grace. She has a special gift for comedy.
Why doesn’t some enterprising producer move this dazzling musical to Broadway? It would enliven a faltering season.