The Streaming Experience: Marry Harry, the Musical from StreamingMusicals.com
The latest in the list of online premieres from streamingmusicals.com is a theatre film production of Marry Harry from off-Broadway’s 2017 season. The evening began with a pre-show chat between the lovely Laura Osnes (Broadway’s Bandstand) and hilarious Marry Harry cast member Veanne Cox (Broadway’s An American in Paris). Due to the importance of food to the show, the evening was presented as a fundraiser for Foodtank: the think tank for food, and the organization’s president Danielle Nierenberg popped in to discuss the great work the organization does and how they have been trying to assist in keeping food on the tables of hungry Americans during this global pandemic. Foodtank is working to alter our modern global food system in an attempt to feed the hungry and prevent food waste. You can learn more at foodtank.com, and if you are able, please consider donating at foodtank.com/donate.
This streaming production of Marry Harry is an example of a hybrid genre I refer to as theatre film that marries the conceptualization and willing suspension of disbelief of a stage show with the directing style and camera work of a film to present a piece that is more than just a recording of a live theatrical performance. It begins with the three Village Voices (Jesse Manocerian, Tony Melson, and Kim Steele) in “A New Day 1” setting the scene and introducing us to the characters like a 21st Century Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon. The 3 are well-utilized by the creative team to provide comedic relief and background vocals, assist with seamless scene changes, and note the passage of the 3-day time frame of the show.
The primary action of the musical follows Little Harry played by David Spadora (Mirror Mirror with Alice Ripley) and Sheri brought to life by Diane Phelan (Broadway’s School of Rock) as they meet in the alley behind his East Village restaurant and navigate the beginnings of a relationship. This situation is complicated by Little Harry’s father Big Harry (Paul Salvatoriello of Broadway’s A Bronx Tale) with his countless schemes to save their Italian restaurant and Sheri’s hilariously overbearing mother Francine (Veanne Cox).
Director and choreographer Bill Castellino (York’s Cagney) does a commendable job of combining theatrical and film elements to create a piece that often had me imagining how the stage show handled sections like the transition between “The Date” and “Marry Me” numbers and the “Elope!” sequence. As an avid theatre-goer, that added an extra level of enjoyment to the experience. Other choices, such as the ending cut to The Village Voices following the final number, simply left me wondering…why?
The musical numbers for the show are compliments of composer Dan Martin and lyricist Michael Biello (The Cousins Grimm). They flow well with the storyline of the show, enhancing some lovely moments and making us laugh in others, and do a superb job of highlighting the vocal abilities of the cast. Unfortunately, they often fall short of completely accomplishing their goal leaving the audience feeling like this is more of a workshop performance than a finished show. This seems best typified in the overly complex melodic line of “Lidia” that seems intended to convey Little Harry’s infatuation with and devotion to American-Italian chef Lidia Bastianich but instead comes off as contrived and superfluous.
Mr. Spadora’s Little Harry is admirable, and of note, he is the only actor in a leading role who reprised his role from the 2017 off-Broadway production. It is difficult to determine if the issues with his performance are his or a by-product of the material he is given to create his character. He has a lovely voice, and his scenes are laudable, but we never felt fully invested in his success in life or love. The most significant obstacle to this is the complete lack of chemistry with Ms. Phelan’s Sheri that is not assisted by the flimsy and poorly executed libretto by Jennifer R. Manocherian (Family Blues). The audience was left with nothing to root for and never fully engaged in the romance.
The standout performance from the cast comes from the ever-hilarious, always reliable, and lovely Veanne Cox as Sheri’s mother. From her manic over-involvement in the planning of Sheri’s wedding and future life to her meddling in Sheri and Harry’s relationship, she pulls out all the stops to create a full-fledged Upper East Side Mom-ster. A true class act, her standout moment for me was in the lyrically hilarious “Thirty” number reminding Sheri that her biological clock is ticking loudly. She also has great rapport with Ms. Phelan during a touching second act scene.
All in all, Marry Harry is an enjoyable 90 minutes, despite its shortcomings. The laughs are genuine, and the parent-child relationships are well-conceived. The film was produced by Tom Polum and Stacia Fernandez. The final encore streaming is May 23, 2020 at 2 PM EDT (7 PM BST) and can be seen at marryharry.com. The pre-show will begin at 1:45 PM.