Promises, Promises has returned to the stage for the first time in over forty years, and though it shows its age, it’s not a detriment to the show. With Neil Simon’s thoughtful, sweet book and Burt Bacharach’s and Hal David’s hum-worthy score, it would be hard to have an aversion to the bright show.
From the bubblegum colors washing the stage, to the light-hearted humor in the actors’ physicality, Promises lets you know from minute-one that you are in for a good time.
Based on the 1960 Academy Award-winning Billy Wilder film “The Apartment,” starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, Promises tells the story of the Consolidated Life Insurance Company and Chuck Baxter (Sean Hayes), one of its naïve, optimistic new employees.
In an effort to advance his career, Chuck lends executives use his apartment for their extramarital romantic trysts.
The sticky situation is further complicated when Chuck discovers Fran Kubelik (Kristin Chenoweth), the object of his affection, is head over heels for one of the slimy executives.
Though Simon’s book is not exactly the most original to hit the stage, director and choreographer Rob Ashford’s execution is creative and heart-warming. He brings out Hayes’ charmingly tender, yet dorky humor in his Broadway debut.
“Will & Grace’s” Jack McFarland shines only in the briefest moments, allowing Hayes to show his range as a performer.
Big on physical comedy, Hayes uses his body to evoke laughs from each of Chuck’s neurotic faults.
Some of his most memorable moments occur when he attempts simple tasks, such as trying tp sit in a bizarre chair. Additionally, his personal asides with the audience would most likely feel contrived were they left to a lesser performer.
Look for Hayes at his comedic best as he works his magic with “A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing” alongside Katie Finneran.
A sure-bet for a Tony nomination, Finneran gets the biggest laughs as nutty lush Marge MacDougall, who meets up with Chuck at the local bar when both characters are at their drunken finest.
More stage time for Finneran would have helped the periodically lagging story; she doesn’t enter the production until Act II.
Chenoweth’s big voice and tiny physique can do no wrong on the Broadway stage, and New York continues to show its love for her when she sings to the rafters in the Bacharach-David hit “I Say a Little Prayer.”
However, due to the gravity and strength she exudes as a performer, it’s difficult to comprehend her in the role of a used mistress who keeps returning to her lover for more lies.
It’s not easy to watch the actress behind Wicked’s Glinda attempt suicide after being jilted by her loser boyfriend. Despite the awkwardness, Chenoweth gives the role her all, and audiences will still find her irresistible in the end.
While Brooks Ashmanskas brings hysterics to all of his work (Present Laughter and The Ritz , for example), his honed comedic talent is lost in his small role as Mr. Dobitch.
Also lost in the shuffle is Dick Latessa, a Tony-Award winner for his role in Hairspray. Here, he is Dr. Dreyfuss, Chuck’s sarcastic neighbor.
He jokes at Chuck’s expense, provides a few good laughs, and then he might as well be a fixture on the wall; this is disappointing, seeing as how he once danced with Harvey Fierstein as one half of Hairspray’s Turnblad family.
Setting aside expectations for the talented group in this production is tough, but Promises, Promises becomes an imaginative, fluffy throwback to the lightness of the 1960s once you look beyond the directors’ missteps in utilizing his cast.
Though it has its problems, this show promises to leave theatergoers with smiles on their faces.
1681 Broadway (at 53rd St.)
Tickets: (212) 239-6200,
Opening Date: April 25, 2010
Closing Date: Open Run
Tues 7 PM
Wed 2 PM & 8 PM
Thurs-Fri 8 PM
Sat 2 PM
Sun 3 PM