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ROMANCE/ROMANCE Shea's Smith Theatre/O'Connell & Company
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Apr 21, 2023, 18:34
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Through April 23
ROMANCE/ROMANCE Shea’s Smith Theatre/O’Connell & Company

There aren’t many musicals not mostly about love
Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” comes to mind.
Barry Harman and Keith Hermann’s “Romance/Romance” fits the standard profile.
This is two views of love, the sham of Vienna’s in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and two eroding marriages in the rich milieu of Long Island's Hamptons.
Director Lisa Ludwig has four performers across the two periods, Bobby Cooke, Jenn Stafford, Thomas Evans and Gretchen Didio.
Perhaps the only link is the use in both halves of “It’s Not Too Late.”
Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s The Little Comedy featuring Alfred (Cooke) and Josefine (Stafford), this first half of this musical moves into the social and sexual politics of the last years of the empire.
Each is tiring of playing by the sexual rules of the class-conscious society, deciding to pose as poor, colliding and falling in love in their (fictional) lower class personas.
Evans and Didio are minor characters in this segment although they certainly can sing and dance. It’s very entertaining, watching Alfred and Josefine try to keep faking as they seek love in Vienna’s wrong places.
It’s filled with music, even a polka scene suggesting the ethnic and cultural mélange that was the Habsburg empire long ago.
Both Alfred and Josefine are looking for something else, with the song showing their shifting views of life, Josefine’s “Yes, It’s Love” and the pair with “A Rustic Country Inn.”
The other and less satisfactory half is based on Jules Renard’s play of the same period “Le Pain de Ménage.”</b here“Romance/Romance” shows what older material and modern music and songs can do, providing an interesting if uneven show.

A.W.

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