Promises, Promises | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Promises, Promises

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

The Auditorium's "Ovations!" series specializes in concert versions of seldom revived musicals, and few musicals are more seldom revived than this 1968 Broadway hit, penned by songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David and playwright Neil Simon. Based on Billy Wilder's 1960 film The Apartment, it tells the now undeniably dated story of a corporate climber who lends his apartment to his bosses for their extramarital trysts with female underlings. As early as 1970--when the show first played Chicago, at the Shubert--its slick sound and smirky sexual humor struck some critics as passe in comparison to the candor and rock 'n' roll rowdiness of Hair, and Bacharach never wrote for Broadway again. But 30 years' perspective reveals Promises, Promises to have been a pioneer: its use of pop idioms and amplified backup vocalists in the pit paved the way for Company and A Chorus Line, among other shows. And taken as a period piece, it's a funny and appealing blend of cynicism and sentimentality as well as a sharp satire on sexism and workplace ethics. Simon's script is packed with snappy, sardonic patter, and the hero's direct addresses to the audience should suit this production's concert format. The crisp, clever, tuneful, harmonically complex score includes five of Bacharach and David's best efforts: the driving title tune and the exuberant novelty number "She Likes Basketball," both sung by the schnook hero Chuck; "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," a duet for Chuck and his beloved, exploited coworker Fran; the melancholy "Wanting Things," sung by J.D. Sheldrake, Chuck's corrupt boss and romantic rival; and Fran's wistful torch song "Whoever You Are," which stands alongside "Alfie" as one of Bacharach and David's loveliest ballads. Director Marc Robin has assembled a superb trio of singer-actors for these roles--Broadway veterans Jason Graae and George Hearn as Chuck and Sheldrake and local dynamo Susan Moniz as Fran--and an excellent supporting cast of Chicago-area talents; musical director Kevin Stites will lead a full orchestra in the riff-filled original arrangements by Stephen Sondheim's frequent collaborator Jonathan Tunick. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-902-1500. Opens Wednesday, January 31, 7:30 PM. Through February 4: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $19-$77.

--Albert Williams

Add a comment