photo: Joan Marcus
Okay, maybe Audra McDonald isn't the absolute worst choice to star as this musical's plain Jane prairie girl heroine...but c'mon, good-looking she of the highfalutin warble is certainly *one* of the worst. Her acting in the book scenes is fine, if you don't mind that her Lizzie is a dishrag and that she lays on the wallflower pathos so thick that she seems to have wandered on stage ready to play The Heiress, but the minute she sings it's all over and we're at arm's length. John Cullum escapes unscathed - at this point he can do plain-speaking homespun wisdom in his sleep - and Bobby Steggert lands his one-liners as Jimmy. Otherwise, the production is one mistake after another, beginning with the oddly Asian feel of the set, and culminating with the uncomfortably over-sexual direction of the (usually showstopping) second act comic number "Little Red Hat." Folks who have never seen this musical before would be forgiven for thinking that the material is third-rate. It isn't, and if time travel were possible, I'd prove it with City Opera's thoroughly delightful production years ago with Karen Ziemba. You'll have to take my word for it.