Mr. Solms started his career writing revue material for Leonard Sillman’s last Broadway revue, New Faces. He has released three comedy albums, wrote the book of the Carol Channing Broadway musical Lorelei and was the co-creator and a writer for the “Carol Burnett Show.” These are just a few of his accomplishments. This critic, however, would not consider It Must Be Him to be one of his better achievements.
This musical within a play features Peter Scolari as Louie, a washed up writer of 1970s variety shows with a gambling habit. Liz Torres is his house cleaner Ana. Louie’s in love with Scott, his roommate who’s half his age, played oh so charmingly by Patrick Cummings. Louie’s latest project is writing a movie about the current state of his life. He has an assistant, Myles, played with droll deliciousness by Harris Doran. Louie’s dead parents played by Alice Playten and Bob Ari appear as apparitions. Louie’s not-dead brother Mark and former love interest from high school, Joan, played by Jonathan C. Kaplan and Stephanie D’Abruzzo respectively, also show up as apparitions to complicate his life (and this show, why?).
Louie is a whiny and annoying mess. He’s in love with a man he can’t have and generally has the maturity of a 15-year old boy. Scolari does a fine job with the role despite there not being much to like about this character. Torres is one of those actresses whose name you may not know but whose face you would definitely recognize. Unfortunately, she seemed unsteady on her feet during the production and moved about the stage holding on to furniture and door sills. Her timing combined with the heavy-handed Spanish accent made it difficult to understand the delivery of some of her lines (Metamoochel instead of Metamucil). A good number of her lines just didn’t have the comedic punch or timing needed.
There is to be a first reading of Louie’s script for his new movie. His agent Ross, played charmingly by John Treacy Egan wants him to change the two female characters Louie has chosen as his and Scott’s characters in the movie into two male roles. Louie is a man who was, of a generation where, when you wrote a script about two gay men it became a script about a straight couple. Despite his own objections, and after Scott shows him how easy it is to do using “search and replace” on the computer, Louie changes the characters to a gay couple.
As the reading begins we are introduced to a stereo-typical cast of characters, the self-absorbed actor types. Edward Staudenmayer as Ty (playing the Louie character) is great fun as the flamboyant, pompadour-wearing actor who can butch it up on a dime where his character is concerned. Once the reading begins we see the exact scene we saw at the beginning of the show played out by the actors.
The reading eventually devolves into chaos in a most Charles Busch sort of way but without any of the real timing or sizzle one would get from Charles Busch. Ross, the agent sends the actors away before they finish reading the play. It’s at this point that we can see the writing on the wall about who will eventually end up with Louie, Ross. When he arrives he comes bearing the danish that Louie likes and he continually bolsters his confidence.
Ultimately Louie decides it’s best to turn the piece into a musical. Perhaps now we can breath some life into this with a couple of musical numbers It’s this portion of the show that has the most punch to it. We get to see Louie step out of himself by playing himself. Scolares is perfect for this section. His singing is not particularly strong but that seems to fit his milk-toast character.
The seemingly title-less musical numbers are by Larry Grossman (music) and Ryan Cunningham (lyrics). They are mostly uninteresting and forgettable with the exception of the number that involves dildos, whips and Scott’s character tied up while he sings lyrics like “please me with your pickle, titillate me with a tickle and give my salad a toss.” Who could forget that. Actually the number was pretty funny.
Once again though, midway through this rendition of Louie’s latest script Ross enters screaming for the actors to stop, telling them that the show is obscene.
In the end Louie is having to sell his house but alas, who should secretly buy it and then tell him he can live there forever? None other than his agent Ross. Nobody saw that coming!
It appears that director Daniel Kutner had a lot of talent to work with here but he just didn’t have the material. His integration of the apparitions worked well given the small amount of space in which he had to work. I think he could have made more of the camp factor in the first reading of the script. Court Watson created a flexible set whereby sliding book shelves and a multi-level deck accommodated the plays multi-room settings.
This piece has its heart in the right place. Unfortunately it borders on tedium because it just isn’t that funny.
It Must Be Him runs through September 26th at the Peter J. Sharp Theater at 416 West 42nd Street.