New York Post, NOVEMBER 7, 1966

Two On The Aisle


'Man With a Load of Mischief'

A musical comedy, based on a Play by Ashley Dukes, with book by Ben Tarver and music by John Clifton, was presented last night at the Jan Hus Playhouse by Donald H. Goldman. It was staged by Tom Gruenewald, choreographed by Noel Schwartz, the setting was by Joan Larkey, and the costumes by Volavkova. The cast was Alice Cannon, Lesslie Nicol, Tom Noel, Reid Shelton, Raymond Thorne and Virginia Vestoff.

Musical Tale of a Wayside Inn

Several decades ago, an English drama critic named Ashley Dukes wrote a romantic play called "Man With a Load of Mischief," which received a certain temporary fame and then disappeared into the mists of theater history. Last night, at the off-Broadway Jan Hus Playhouse, it popped up in a musical adaptation by John Clifton and Ben Tarver, and, much aided by Mr. Clifton's freshly attractive score, it turned out to be quite a charming little entertainment.

The title, you should be advised at once, is the name of a wayside inn in early 19th-century England where the action takes place. To this lonely hostelry, there comes one evening a rakish gentleman and a lady who was the runaway mistress of a great prince. They had been in a roadside accident, and the purpose of staying for the night was, at least on the gentleman's part, an assignation. But he reckoned without his superior serving man, who saw the inherent good in the lady.

The Songs

Although the tale has its trying moments of archness at the beginning, it makes a pleasant enough romantic story. But the evening's most appealing feature is Mr. Clifton's appropriate score. The songs are never pretentious or sensational, but they always strike the proper romantic mood charmingly, and such numbers as "Masquerade," "Make Way for My Lady," and a ballad called, of all things, "Hulla-Baloo-Balay" are remarkably appealing.

Looking back at the three songs I have mentioned, it occurs to me that all of them are sung by Reid Shelton, who portrays the bold and dashing servitor, and this is no accident. For Mr. Shelton is a pillar of strength to the proceedings. An excellent singer, who has the ability to make every word of the lyrics audible, he also plays with the proper romantic style and authority, an accomplishment that is of enormous value to the spirit of "Man With a Load of Mischief."

The Mood

It would be wrong to assert that the adapters have made a tremendous thing out of Ashley Dukes' old play. Indeed, it is one of their show's blessings that they haven't tried to do so. There are occasions, especially those moments at the start, when the suspicion wrongly arises that the going may be rough, and it is a modest musical comedy that belongs in an off-Broadway setting. Placed there, however, it is able to capture its playful romantic mood with likeable results.

It has been well staged by Tom Gruenewald, and Joan Larkey has provided a nice atmosphere setting. While Mr. Shelton's performance is the outstanding one of the evening, the rest of the cast is serviceable. The small orchestra, I see by the program, consists of a clarinet, flute and cello, and it has the right intimacy for Mr. Clifton's score. "Man With a Load of Mischief" has become an engagingly unpretentious and tuneful little musical show.