"COME UP 'N SEE ME"
The Bonnie Lee Sanders/Ellen Schwartz/ Bianca Leigh musical “Come Up ‘n’ See Me” channels Mae West in an edgy, tuneful biopic of one of the most important performers of the first half of the 20th century. Debbie Gravitte, a Tony winner for “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” not only belts out the story with Sanders' and Schwartz's original songs to conjure up Mae West’s style, but, in her body language and inflection, she persuades you she is the vampish, tough-talking “dame” who filled music halls and occasionally a jail cell for getting on the wrong side of the censors. The story recreates Mae West's life, starting in vaudeville and going all the way to her triumph in Hollywood movies. With ten other fine musical actors, playing everyone from Louella Parsons to W.C. Fields, this production, which I saw at a reading at the York Theatre, is directed by Crystal Chapman with musical direction by Tom Spahn. It is a winner.
Lucy Komisar is a theater critic for New York Theatre-Wire and a member of the Drama Desk.
I am so thrilled I recently had the opportunity to experience the fantastic reading of “Come Up “N”
See Me”, a new musical about the incomparable Mae West. It was as clever, entertaining and fun to watch as it’s subject matter, the sexy, playful, dazzling Ms. West. You know it’s good when
you forget It’s a reading.
The piece captures the great lady with all her devilish charm, wit and warmth. And gives us an
eye-opening glimpse of her fierce sexual and intellectual prowess that took the entertainment industry and a fickle public by storm. Not only did she write most of her own material for stage and screen, but she almost always had final say in an early Hollywood that was even more impenetrable and
male-dominated than it is today. It’s been said that she single-handedly saved Paramount from bankruptcy!
Without a doubt, the multi-talented Hayley Swindel was incredible and made for the part. She delivered
those wisecracks with a sassy spontaneity and sense of fun that you don’t get from a mere
Mae West imitator. She manages to exhude super sex appeal, warmth, cleverness, and likability all at the same time - probably very much like Mae West herself!
I can’t wait to see her in the Broadway version in the big musical production numbers! And did I mention, she can really sing! Everyone in the working cast were pros and made it fun and watchable.
What's more, having the reading at
the Friars Club, added a bit of style, panache and endorsement to the whole event! Bravo to all, especially the creators, Bonnie Lee Sanders, Ellen Schwartz and Bianca Leigh. A brilliant beginning!
EW All Media Inc.