Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Greasepaint" Has Dab for Everyone

Cleveland Press April 13, 1965

The advance word on this show was that it was another "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off" -- also an Anthony Newley creation.

Well it is, and it isn't. It's better. It's less obscure. The symbolism is there if you want it. If not forget it, sit back and enjoy the show,

Again Newley, co-author with Leslie Bricusse of book, music and Iyrics, gives the establishment a kicking around.

It's the big guy versus the little guy with the little guy getting a clobbering, most of the way. Newley also gets in his licks at nations races, superstition, fatalism, religion and capitalism.

Now lest this frighten you away, be assured that this is first of all a musical and a highly entertaining one.

NEWLEY NOT ONLY figures in all the holes listed above, he is also director and co-star. He is teamed with the wonderful Cyril Ritchard and the combination is a most happy one.

"Stop the World" was set in a circus arena. "Greasepaint" uses a multi-level stage with a circular area in the center on which is marked off a game.

After a group of ragged urchins sings about the "Beautiful Land," Ritchard and Newley enter -- Ritchard in a two-wheel cart dragged by Newley. They are as ragged as the youngsters.

RITCHARD IS SIR -- the big man, the establishment, the referee, the con man. Newley is Cocky -- the little guy, the jerk, the fan guy the perpetually downtrodden, not bright enough to know what has happened to him.

"Never take advantage of your opponent," intones Sir, "unless the opportunity presents itself."

To Cocky, who has complained of hunger, he proclaims: "Gluttony is a sin. Thou shalt not glut."

Cocky must always make the first move. Sir moves not at all, instead rules that Cocky has moved incorrectly and has lost another game.

THE LITTLE GUY wins but not before the middle of the second act and by then he has been starved, blackmailed and physically beaten.

All of this is hung with more songs per square inch than any audience has a right to expect. There are melodious riches here that come tumbling out in generous profusion.

"Wonderful Things Like Today" has a happy sound. And there's Sir's cynical "Things to Remember" and Cocky's pleading with fortune in "It Isn't Enough." For wistfulness try Cocky's "This Dream" and "My First Love Song."

The term "show stopper" has become a cliche, but what better way to describe songs like "The Joker" and "Who Can I Turn To?"

"THE JOKER" is a pulsating exciting, sometimes raucous number in which Newley sings, dances and acts. "Who Can I Turn To" is similar to "What Kind of Fool Am I" in "Stop the World." It's another torchy, heartbroken sound and Newley makes the most of it.

Like to see a couple of smoothies in a good, old-fashioned song - and - dance routine? Then watch Ritchard and Newley in "Where Would You Be Without Me?"

NEWLEY IS THE consummate clown. Every look, gesture, even the twist of his jaw contributes to his performance. Ritchard is every bit the thorough pro you expect him to be, an actor who relishes a good line and knows what to do with it.

Sally Smith is the Kid, a sprightly girl in boy's clothing. All of the urchins who appear as boys, are really girls. It's too bad about the appearance (such a waste), but girls' voices are better fitted for the chorus work.

THE SHOW MOVES at a brisk pace. The humor ranges from the most subtle remark to an occasional! coarse gesture.

"Greasepaint" is unorthodox, the second act is a little heavy with symbolism.

The first act seemed long, but there isn't a single number I would suggest tossing out. The show is best when it relies on songs and dance -- and of these there are plenty.