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THEATER REVIEW

Revised 'Tour' still not grand

A spirited revival at the Colony can't overcome the flawed book of Jerry Herman's 1979 Broadway musical.

November 09, 2005|F. Kathleen Foley | Special to The Times

An adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation, "The Grand Tour," now at the Colony, has taken a long and circuitous road to its present production. The story, about a beleaguered Jew forced to team up with an anti-Semitic Polish colonel to flee the invading Nazis, was first conceived as a sort of cocktail party collaboration between Czech dramatist Franz Werfel and U.S. playwright S.N. Behrman.

Disgusted with the 1944 Broadway production, Werfel weighed in with his own more highly stylized and absurdist take. To complicate matters even further, the story was later recycled as "Me and the Colonel," a 1958 film starring Danny Kaye.

The tale then resurfaced as a 1979 musical with songs by Jerry Herman ("Mame," "Hello, Dolly!") and book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble. Although Tony-nominated in several categories, the show closed after a mere 61 performances.

Now, Herman and Bramble revisit their failed pet project in the Colony's revision, which boasts Herman's embellished score and Bramble's heavily tweaked book. Sadly, despite all the Sturm und Drang and hoopla, "Tour" still doesn't work.

Most problematic is the book, which has holes in it that would accommodate a Sherman tank.

Although effectively portrayed by John Ganun, the character of Col. Tadeusz Boleslav Stjerbinsky remains an implausible cipher.

For example, we are meant to believe that the aristocratic colonel, returning from the front after losing nearly 3,000 men, remains so uptight and finicky that he would balk at having to ride in a second-class carriage -- with the Nazis only moments away. Worse, we must swallow the fact that the colonel, who is carrying the names of the entire Resistance in a hatbox, would leave that crucial document behind simply by "mistake."

In defiance of the grim zeitgeist, belabored cuteness prevails. When the heroes, who are hiding out in a traveling carnival, get pinned down by the Nazis, they put on a show to escape their enemies' clutches. That device works the first time but wears very thin when Marianne, the beautiful young Frenchwoman adored by both men, later turns chanteuse for yet another audience of Nazis. Hey, when in mortal peril, just put on a show. Call this "Babes in Arms" meets "Playing for Time."

Under Evan Weinstein's piecemeal direction (if you're going to lay out a picnic, have somebody eat something already!), Ganun hammers his tintype into something approaching believability, while Jason Graae is delightful as S.L. Jacobowsky, the spunky and resilient Jew who centers the improbable action. Belt-voiced Tami Tappan Damiano raises the roof as Marianne.

This talented trio sells the show like street vendors at a Moroccan bazaar, with a fair degree of success. However, despite excellent production values and a considerable amount of effort, this "Tour" ultimately dead ends.

*

'The Grand Tour'

Where: Colony Theatre Company, 555 N. 3rd St., Burbank

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Call for other times.

Ends: Dec. 4

Price: $43 to $48

Contact: (818) 558-7000, Ext. 15

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

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