‘Enter Laughing: The Musical’ runs through June 16 at the York Theatre Company. 619 Lexington Ave., yorktheatre.org.
As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the York Theatre Company is reviving its well-received production of “Enter Laughing: The Musical” — though minus much of its predecessor’s charm, chutzpah and comic ingenuity.
“Enter Laughing" is itself a revival of Joseph Stein and Stan Daniels’ critically panned 1976 musical "So Long, 174th Street," which was based on Carl Reiner’s 1958 semi-autobiographical novel.
Set in Depression-era New York, it observes David Kolowitz, a clueless, well-meaning teen from the Bronx who harbors dreams of becoming an actor, running counter to the expectations of his parents, boss and girlfriend. David unexpectedly lands a gig with a WPA-style theater run by the washed-up, alcoholic actor Harrison Marlowe, culminating in a hilariously disastrous debut performance in which David is paralyzed by stage fright.
David’s insatiable attraction to girls is reflected in multiple songs, including showstopper “The Butler’s Song,” in which David imagines having countless screen starlets of the period (such as Dolores del Rio, Greta Garbo, Jean Arthur and Joan Crawford) begging for his company in bed.
The York’s relationship with “Enter Laughing” began when it was produced in 2007 as part of the theater’s Musicals in Mufti Series, in which rarely-seen works receive scaled-down concert productions.
After a second Mufti run, the York presented “Enter Laughing” the following season as a full Off-Broadway production, which itself received an encore run and starred Josh Grisetti as David and George S. Irving as Marlowe. From 2007 to 2009, I saw “Enter Laughing” six times — it was old-fashioned musical comedy at its very best.
Except for a few edits and unsightly wigs, this show (directed again by Stuart Ross) is similar to its prior incarnations. However, new cast members Chris Dwan (David) and David Schramm (Marlowe) do not possess the comic chops and oddball chemistry of their predecessors, making this “Enter Laughing” a shadow of its former self.
Nevertheless, those new to “Enter Laughing” ought to be in for a pleasant time. The game supporting cast includes Tony nominee Alison Fraser ("The Secret Garden," "Romance/Romance") as David’s mother, Allie Trimm (“13”) as David’s girlfriend and Farah Alvin (“I Love You Because”) as Marlowe’s daughter. Even James Morgan, the York’s longtime artistic director, makes a cameo during the show.