The year is 1927. The Great War, which we now remember as World War I, is a distant memory. The stock market is booming. Life is good for the investing class. And football has become a happy obsession for students and their parents on college campuses across the United States.
That’s the setting for Good News!, a frothy, seldom-produced 1927 musical rom-com by Laurence Schwab, B.G. DeSylva and Frank Mendel, which runs at The Shedd through July 30.
The play ran on Broadway for 557 performances at the end of the Roaring ’20s — but was overshadowed that same year by Show Boat, a monument in the history of musicals. If Show Boat welcomed us to the era of serious musical drama, Good News! marked the last gasp of the old vaudevillian musical revue.
The Shedd’s production, a 1993 Broadway revival, is directed with quick energy by Ron Daum — who also sings a small role in the show. It takes the froth of Good News! and whips it into an intricate, satisfying meringue.
Dylan Stasack is perfectly cast as Tom Marlowe, the hunky football star of the Tait College team, who flunks his astronomy exam and sets in motion the end of his engagement to Pat Bingham (Clarae Smith), the hard-edged socialite daughter of a football donor. That also opens up a sweet romance with Connie Lane (Cyra Conforth), his astronomy tutor for one long night before his last-chance retest.
Their budding relationship is echoed by the long-dead but suddenly reviving romance between football coach Bill Johnson (Matthew Leach) and astronomy professor Charlotte Kenyon (Lynnea Barry).
Cassi Q Kohl, brought down from Portland for her first Shedd show, gives a dazzling turn as Babe O’Day, the good-time flapper who dumps Beef Saunders (Evan McCarthy) for third-string quarterback Bobby Randall (Jim Ballard). Kohl knows comedy and draws seemingly effortless laughter and applause.
The songs are good even if you don’t know most — or any — of them. The best known are “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (which serves as a finale), “Shine On Harvest Moon,” “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” and “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” which would, within two short years of the play’s premiere, find popular traction in a Depression-ravaged world.
Robert Ashens is music director and conductor of a small orchestra that plays from back stage.
This production’s delightful high energy relies on clever and fast-moving choreography by Caitlin Christopher. She has a stripped-down Stasak/Marlowe doing calisthenics, to the delight of most females in the audience. Under her guidance there is never a dull visual moment on stage.
Good News! plays 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday, July 28 -29, and 3 pm Sunday, July 30, at The Shedd; $13-$36, more info at TheShedd.org.