"Pal Joey" (Porchlight Music Theatre): McMonagle Bewitches!

"Pal Joey" (Porchlight Music Theatre):  McMonagle Bewitches!

Porchlight Music Theatre presents PAL JOEY. 

Porchlight secured the rights to the 1940 original version of this Broadway musical play.  So, Chicago has the opportunity for the first-time ever to hear the full compilation of songs, including the restored number “I’m Talking to My Pal” that was cut before the premiere opening night.  Of course, Porchlight injects its own innovation to the Rodgers and Hart classic.  Their musical bursts on stage.  The large talented cast kicks it up and dances it out in a high-energy spectacle.  And that’s just the overture!

Led by the charismatic and athletic Adrian Aguilar (Joey), this show has a razzle-dazzle physicality.  Aguilar often crosses the stage in the air with a move that looks like ballet meets trapeze.  Under the expressive choreography of Brenda Didier, the movement changes from flapper-cheeky to smoldering seduction.  The chorus gals effectively gossip and look bored while performing their multi-stepped routines.  Hilarious and remarkable!  In “The Flower Garden of My Heart,” the ladies are in particularly amusing clad in makeshift flower costumes by Bill Morey.  Designer Morey does an amazing job dressing an array of characters.  He gets to go trashy-sexy with the dancing girls and then full-on posh for socialite Susie McMonagle (Vera).  McMonagle’s purple silk pajamas are enviable. Gorgeous!

McMonagle is the seducer.  She captivates with “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”  She is not the only one bewitched. Everyone in the audience is… with her!  McMonagle delivers an elegant yet playful performance.  She propositions Aguilar with poised purchasing power.  She zings the punch line with Mae West feistiness.  McMonagle is outstanding!  Her “Take Him” duet with the lovely Laura Savage (Linda) is a sophisticated relational transaction.  It’s sweet, sad and inspiring at the same time.  The showstopper number is “Zip” sang by an unforgettable Callie Johnson (Melba).  Johnson arrives as the uptight and obligated journalist and leaves the conquering heroine.  Her number zips it, zips it good!

I love the song “I could write a book.”  Yet, I wasn’t completely crazy about John O’Hara’s book.  This play premiering in 1940 most definitely had tongues wagging.  The scandalous premise is about a kept man.   Ballsy, indeed!  The story gets a little tired in the second act.  And even the dynamic Aguilar can’t make the character of Joey likable.  Still, PAL JOEY knows how to entertain with musicality, movement and the marvelous McMonagle.     

Running Time:  Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission.

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont

Book by John O’Hara

Music by Richard Rodgers

Lyrics by Lorenz Hart

Directed by Michael Weber

Musical direction by Doug Peck

Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm

Sundays at 2pm

Thru May 26th

Buy Tickets at www.stage773.com

Photo by Brandon Dahlquist

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