The Roundabout's production of THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM is the first New York production the show has had in forty years. The small-scale musical is famous for being one of the first productions of John Houseman's The Acting Company, a select group of advanced Juilliard graduate alumni/ae who plays a limited run in New York and toured the country. Patti LuPone and Kevin Kline headed the original cast. Now it is back with an excellent ensemble of singers and musicians headed by Steven Pasquale.
Based on a Eudora Welty novella, THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM is a piece of Southern whimsy filled with oddball characters. It centers on a romance between a bandit (Pasquale) and the daughter of the wealthiest man in the area (Ahna O'Reilly), who is doted on by her father but mistreated by her stepmother Salome (Leslie Kritzer) -- a bit of Cinderella there. Alfred Uhry has trimmed his original book so that Robert Waldman's Appalachian-inflected score dominates. The show now is a fleet ninety minutes, a perfect length for this sort of confection.
One's response to this production will depend a lot on whether one enjoys Alex Timber's relentlessly inventive direction. There's no question of Timbers' love of theatre, nor is there any question of his ingenuity. However, he throws so much clever stuff at the audience at such a fast pace in this show that it can get exhausting. Connor Gallagher's choreography is crucial to the constant action. I saw a preview and perhaps in time the show will allow for some breathing room for the audience. Donyale Werle's sets are as busy as the direction.
There's no question that Timbers has amassed an excellent ensemble of performers including the small onstage band that is very much a part of the cast. Pasquale radiates his usual charisma, able supported by his two leading ladies.
I guess I have conclude by saying that THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM lives up to the Roundabout's high standards. The music is delightful, the story amusing, the production highly imaginative. It just needs to relax a little.
THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM. Laura Pels Theatre. February 22, 2016.