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Sunday, 29 August 2010 11:46

Off-Broadway Review: JUST IN TIME - THE JUDY HOLLIDAY STORY

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Marina Squerciati as Judy Holliday in JUST IN TIME - THE JUDY HOLLIDAY STORY Marina Squerciati as Judy Holliday in JUST IN TIME - THE JUDY HOLLIDAY STORY Photo: Ellen Nickles

When you go to the Fringe Festival you don’t necessarily look for perfection so much as you look for potential.  Such is the case with Just in Time - The Judy Holliday Story which was presented at Venue #16, the Soho Playhouse.  Just in Time has an interesting story focusing on the life of Judith Tuvim, aka Judy Holliday, best known to Broadway fans as Billie Dawn in Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday and Ella Peterson in Comden and Green’s Bells are Ringing.

As is the case with many of the popular Fringe Festival presentations chaos reigned outside the venue with a line that ran halfway down Vandam Street and a second line of about 30 waiting for any cancellations.  Unfortunately, chaos continued to reign inside on-stage as well.  Just in Time is a confusing piece that can’t decide if it wants to be a musical, a straight play, a comedy, or a drama.  It doesn’t quite qualify as a musical considering it only has four songs, one is written by the playwright and the other three have lyrics by Judy Holliday.  None of the songs is particularly memorable.  There are also a couple of skits lifted from “Adams Rib,” and “The Jimmy Durante Show.”  

The action takes place on the eve of the 1950 Academy Awards when Holliday was nominated and won an Oscar for “Born Yesterday” and weaves through her relationship with Bette Comden and Adolph Green and their start as a comedy team, the Revuers, at the Village Vanguard.  Betty and Adolph are nicely played by Catherine Lefrere and Adam Harrington.  They also handily play all the other male and female parts in the show with the exception of Judy’s mother Helen, a typical Jewish stage-mother played by Mary Gutzi.    In the role of Judy Holliday is the talented Marina Squerciati who handles the comedic and vulnerable sides to Ms. Holliday beautifully. 

The action confusingly moves from Judy’s appearance in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee into the show “What’s My Line,” where oddly her mother is one of the guest panelists.  Some of the scenes are also introduced via a movie slate as though the scene were being filmed for a movie.  There is no consistent style or tempo to the piece.  The author, Bob Sloan also directed the piece.  According to the playbill, Michael Greif previously directed a couple of productions of this piece.  Mr. Sloan’s taking on the role of director himself might not have been the best idea in this situation.  I think perhaps Mr. Sloan was too close to the piece to see how disjointed and muddled it is and could have benefited from another pair of eyes.  

Ms. Holliday’s story is a fascinating one and might very well make a great play or musical.  Unfortunately, the case with Just in Time is that it didn’t achieve the necessary balance of music and dialogue and it certainly didn’t utilize songs that advanced the plot.  The musical numbers seemed to be there for the sake of a musical number.  Definitely a no-no in musical theatre.  

We could see more of this piece but Mr. Sloan has a lot of work to do before that could happen.

Last modified on Sunday, 29 August 2010 21:58