Triumph of Love, Circle Theatre. Rare is the Broadway musical that's built to last, and rarer still is the big-budget extravaganza that transcends pure commerce and approaches art. James Magruder, Jeffrey Stock, and Susan Birkenhead's 1997 musical adaptation of an 18th-century romance is not that rarity. For the most part it's a joyless, by-the-numbers excuse for fancy costumes and expensive-looking set pieces. As a musical, it's hopelessly malnourished; the only true showstopper is "Henchmen," which showcases the supporting cast. But Magruder's book--a brazen, innuendo-packed reworking of Marivaux's own adaptation of an archetypal comedy of mistaken identities--has its merits.
Fortunately, Circle Theatre veteran Kevin Bellie understands what makes Triumph of Love tick: hormones. His staging plays up Magruder's double entendres ("Agis, shouldn't you be waxing your cannon?") and sets a brisk pace that belies the show's inflated-for-Broadway length of two and a half hours. And Laura Keeling (Corine), Brett Bregin Kashanitz (Dimas), and John Simmons (Harlequin) are pitch perfect as the three loopy attendants who trick the star-crossed lovers into love.
Robert A. Knuth's set and lighting and Jeffrey Kelly's costumes are bold and saturated with color. And when Bellie manages to keep things light yet earthy, it's easy to forget for a moment that this musical is essentially empty. Sex will always sell, but with a musical this chaste, who's buying?