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Babes in Arms

McKechnie, Lopez and Walsh Are Among Babes in Arms for Encores! Revival Feb. 11-14


The gang of vaudeville orphans singing the hit score of Rodgers and Harts Babes in Arms, presented Feb. 11-14 by Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert, was announced Jan. 29, and A Chorus Line veterans Donna McKechnie and Priscilla Lopez are in the mix.

McKechnie and Don Correia (Singin in the Rain) play the parents of juvenile character Valentine (played by Australian cabaret star David Campbell), and Lopez (A Chorus Line) and dancer-choreographer Thommie Walsh (A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine) play the parents of Vals love interest, Billie, who is yet to be cast.

Its Billie and Val who get the shows choicest numbers: Billie sings My Funny Valentine and The Lady is a Tramp and Val gets Where or When, All at Once and the title song.

The more youthful part of the company includes Melissa Rain Anderson, Matthew Ballinger, Kevin Cahoon (The Lion King, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Christopher Fitzgerald (Corpus Christi), dancers Scott Irby-Ranniar and Cartier Anthony Williams, Shaun Powell (A Flea in Her Ear) and Jessica Stone (How to Succeed...). Most are 30 or younger.

The original 289-performance production was such a hit partly because it starred unknown performers (Mitzi Green, Ray Heatherton) in their teens or early 20s. The story concerns kids of vaudeville performers who put on a show to stop from being sent to a work farm during the Depression (while their folks are performing with the Federal Theatre Project).

Richard Riehle plays the local sheriff in the Encores! production.

The musical comedy will be directed and choreographed by Encores! artistic director Kathleen Marshall and music-directed by Rob Fisher. The song list for the 1937 score also includes Way Out West and Johnny One-Note (both sung by Melissa Rain Anderson, as Baby Rose), I Wish I Were in Love Again (sung by Fitzgerald and Stone), Imagine and You Are So Fair.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization confirmed that Encores!, which produces concert stagings of classic, seldom-revived or neglected musicals, would be using the original script and score, not the revised stock and amateur script (which interpolates Youre Nearer) that has circulated. Both versions are available to producers.

Encores! will include some kind of version of a song called All Dark People, now listed as Light On Our Feet, performed by dancers Irby Ranniar (as Irving DeQuincey) and Williams (as brother Ivor DeQuincey). That song, originated by Harold and Fayard Nicholas, has the line all dark people is light on their feet and has been excised from licensed versions (including the Evans Haile studio recording) due to its racial references.

Performances are at City Center. For ticket information, call (212) 581 1212.

-- By Kenneth Jones (Playbill)