This time New York City Center Encores! has reached back to revive the 1938 “I Married an Angel,” a Broadway show with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart and a book they wrote adapted from a play by James Vaszary. The concert style revival (March 20-24) was directed and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse, with Rob Fisher as guest music director.
The Encores! presentation was highlighted by an excellent 29-member cast, the superb Encores! Orchestra, dazzling costumes designed by Alejo Vietti and overall visual appeal. This time abundant dancing played an integral role. As for the show itself that was explored, the Rodgers-Hart venture appears to have been a weak mixed bag. (A 1942 film version starred Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.)
Set in Hungary, the plot is from hunger. However, there is considerable delight derived from the performances and the dancing. George Balanchine choreographed the original production for his wife-to-be, Vera Zorina. In the Encores! revival Bergasse has freshly choreographed the production for his wife, Sara Mearns, who plays Angel. Mearns has been a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet since 2008, with a host of other important dance credits.
Mearns is a force to behold in this staging, and reveals acting ability as well as her dance skills. In the very contrived story-line, banker Count Willy Palaffi (Mark Evans) says he will only marry an angel. Presto! Descending from the heavens is Mearns, complete with her angel wings. Willy is smitten and soon the wings disappear.
The trouble is that Angel makes remarks and does things that seem more devilish than angelic and gets Willy into trouble. Nikki M. James as the sexy Countess Peggy Palaffi, Willy’s sister, sets Angel straight on how to behave as a woman (not a politically correct one by today’s standards) in a number called ”A Twinkle in Your Eye.” There’s not much point in detailing the various plot turns, except to point out that a crisis occurs when Willy’s bank is failing and confronting a run on it.
The best musical numbers prove to be “I Married an Angel,” “Spring Is Here” and “I’ll Tell the Man in the Street.” There is a lavish fantasy sequence “At the Roxy Music Hall,” which provides the occasion for some show biz stuff, and the opportunity for Hayley Podschun as Anna Murphy and Phillip Attmore as Peter Mueller to shine. Toward the show’s conclusion a flock of angels descend and one asks Angel if she can find a man for her.
So there you have it—an expertly staged revival of a relatively minor Broadway original with pleasures provided by the Encores! entourage and the exceptional dancing by Sara Mearns. At New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street. Reviewed March 25, 2019.