Backing all the songs, and there are dozens of them, is an exotic klezmer band (composed of accordion, clarinet, violin, and upright bass) whose undulating and at times discordant wail is unexpected and perfect. Between the smallness of the story and the plainness of the Performance Network's black-box theater, I suspect more traditional orchestration would have tipped the balance and made this musical a wheezy mockery of itself.
Klezmer and the two women carry this show. Jennifer Joan Joy, in the Margaret Sullavan / Meg Ryan part, is a newcomer to the Network stage, and she and Naz Edwards (playing the spinster) deliver one showstopper after another. Late in the show, when singing about vanilla ice cream, Joy belts out a high, sustained note opera-style. On the night I was there, it rocked the house and sent the audience leafing through their programs to find her bio.
Though not a big event by Broadway standards, this is a risky, large-scale production for the Performance Network, and it succeeds thoroughly. Its six-week run continues Thursday through Sunday (except Christmas Day) through December 26.
[Originally published in December, 2004.]