Having once more returned safely from the only museum in the world with 10 million people living in it, New York City, I can safely say that walking down the sidewalks of New York does not seem to be any greater risk to life and limb than blowing into a fireplace full of ash and inhaling; the effect of breathing New York City air being similar.
This time around, I will not bore you with the kind of paens of praise which I oiled on the city in general the last time I wrote of it. This time, I will bore you with heaps of praise for the Theatre.
It was-my very pleasant experience to see 1776 and Two by Two while I was in NYC, in addition to viewing two game show tapings, some movies and some museums. Let me start off by saying that there is no reason whatsoever to spend a lot of money in this city, in spite of the somewhat popular belief of some. The city's many free museums (especially the American Museum of Natural History), and the reasonably priced art museums (including the Whitney which also shows excellent films) and its incomparable sights, sounds and smells are an inexpensive treat for the tourist. The subway, once you have mastered its intricacies, is reasonable transportation at a palatable price. Or, as one native so aptly put it, infrequent and overpriced transportation, which the directors of the transit authority never have to ride.
This statement of low cost by the way is dependent upon your having a friend in New York to provide housing and help with food. Otherwise, goodbye money..... Back then to the shows. 1776 richly deserves the praise and large audiences with which it has been blessed. The music is purely incidental, and it seems that the people who produced the show had the accidental good sense not to push it to the forefront. There are only two songs really worthy of note: the humorous "Sit Down John," sung by the congress to John Adams, who admits that he is "Obnoxious and disliked"; and the all too true song, "Molasses to Rum,' sung by the delegate from South Carolina (which comments on the smell of hypocrisy from New England). The rest of the time, the accuracy of the account and portrayal is fascinating, and the dialog fairly brings the house down. There are at least an even dozen lines which should be classics in our times. The music is incidental here; the play's the thing. At the St. James Theatre.
Two by Two = Danny Kaye. The Richard Rodgers music is amusing, but certainly not inspired or brilliant or any of the other things that it is accustomed to being. There seem to be signs of age, and of sugar coating showing through the seams in the play. The concept of a musical about Noah and the Ark is novel, as is the humorous treatment of the material. Several of the other actors turn in reasonable performances, especially Walter Willison, who played Japheth, Noah's younger son, and Madeline Kahn, who performs as the clean-cut musical equivalent of a breasty harlot. Surprisingly enough, the play is well written, and makes a couple of off-color remarks come off very funny. But without Danny Kaye, I'm afraid there wouldn't be much to the thing. If you are one of his particular fans, then this is the show. If you can't stand the man, you won't like "Two by Two," at the Imperial Theatre.
To put it another way, as one New Yorker in the subway put it to me, when I asked why there were so many high school students out during the day: "The purpose of the American Federation of Teachers in New York City is to protect the teachers. From people who want to get an education.