Two performances remain for “Mary of the Avenue” at the Stella Adler. Clearly a labor of love, it demonstrates why workshops should be de rigueur for developing new musicals.
Its authors, Greg Wood (music) and Neil Scanlan (book and lyrics), follow the titular Manhattan vagrant (engaging Mary Ellen Gridley) and Carrie (sweet-voiced Kate Sullivan), the abandoned Midwestern daughter she won't acknowledge, with a self-imitative generic bounce reminiscent of organizational fundraising events.
Actually the opener, “Cold Wind,” is somber, even as it conjoins “Harlem” with “snarlin’” and “alarmin’,” a portent of what’s ahead. Most numbers are unflaggingly coy, per such titles as “Sacks of Fifth Avenue,” “Baskin’ in Nebraska” and “Life’s a Pisser.”
Critically, the direct-address premise is astoundingly disconnected from even musical comedy reality. Given that, and the rudimentary staging by director Donna Scarantino and choreographer Rikki Lugo, the eager cast and stalwart band are downright heroic.