By Randi Bjornstad
It’s called “Good News,” and James Ralph, executive director at The Shedd Institute for the Arts, says the midsummer musical that opens there on July 21 is “a fast-paced, sassy tale of 1920s college life,” chock full of recognizable songs that help make up the mythical American Songbook.
In this case, the songwriting team is a little less well-known than some from that era, but B.G. DeSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson collaborated on such familiar pieces as “Button Up Your Overcoat,” “My Lucky Star” and “You’re the Cream in My Coffee,” which provides an indication of both their musical ability and their songs’ durability.
This version of the show has a dozen and a half musical numbers, which besides those already mentioned includes familiar numbers such as the lively dance number called “The Varsity Drag,” “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” — through the years recorded, among others, by Judy Garland, Debbie Reynolds, Doris Day and Ben Vereen — and “The Best Things in Life are Free.”
“Good News” the musical had its debut in 1927, and it had a revival in 1993, which is the version that The Shedd is doing. That explains the fact that some of the songs were written and incorporated after the original show hit the boards.
It’s not a production that requires deep thought or keeping a vast cast of complex characters straight in your mind. It is a light, summery show about young love, rediscovery of old love, attraction of opposites, simple humor, joyful dancing and performances by people who love what they’re doing.
The setting is a fictitious institution of higher learning called Tait College, where football jock Tom Marlowe flunks a final while also falling madly in love with hiss tutor, a serious student named Connie Lane. At the same time, a flippant flapper named Babe O’Day causes amorous waves of her own by dumping another football hero called “Beef” Saunders for Bobby Randall, a third-string player on the team.
That list of characters is played by Dylan Stasack, Cyra Conforth, Cassi Q. Kohl, Evan McCarty and Jim Ballard, along with additional Shedd veteran performers Clarae Smith, Lynnea Barry, Matthew Leach and Ron Daum, who also directs the show.
Other members of the cast are Erin Hennessy, Sophia James, Kenady Conforth, Roxanne Fox, Brayden Rogers, Connor Crisswell, Samuel Rose and Mike Schwab.
Musical direction for “Good News” is the purview of Robert Ashens, with Caitlin Christopher providing choreography and costume design by Jamie Parker.
The original version of “Good News” opened on Broadway in September 1927 at The 46th Street Theatre, where it ran for 557 performances. Although the “Roaring Twenties” setting seems quaint now, at the time it was a contemporary show, reportedly featuring ushers wearing college sweaters and members of the orchestra running through the theater shouting sis-boom-bah cheers on their way to the pit.
An ill-fated revival in 1974 that transported the story from the ’20s to the Depression era, failed to excite audiences and closed after 16 performances. The 1993 revival, commissioned for the Music Theatre of Wichita, successfully returned the show to its original decade and restored much of the original score. Since then, it has been produced more than 400 times since, throughout the United States as well as Canada and the United Kingdom.
There also are two film versions of “Good News,” the first in 1930 with Cliff Edwards and Bessie Love, the second in 1947, starring June Allyson and Peter Lawford.
When: 7:30 p.m. on July 21-22 and 28-29; 3 p.m. on July 23 and 30; pre-performance meals available at The Shedd, by reservation
Where: Jaqua Concert Hall at The Shedd Institute for the Arts at Broadway and High streets in downtown Eugene
Tickets: $20 to $36, available at the ticket office at 868 High St., 541-434-7000, or online at theshedd.org/