Lovable Old Tony is “The Most Happy Fella”

By Diamond Ebanks

Nothing could be more charming than “The Most Happy Fella,” a 1956 musical written by Frank Loesser. The cast of this hit musical, comprised of NYU students from Steinhardt’s Program in Vocal Performance, has a way of making the entire theatre shine with smiles as the ambience is pervaded by a light, airy optimism. The Steinhardt vocal group has done a great job bringing this unusual romance to life.

The audience murmured with anticipation for the velvety red curtain to push aside. There was an incredible turnout for opening night, last Saturday, February 4. The audience was bathed in prestige: large costume jewelry, fur coats, fragrant perfumes and colognes—all were decked out for a musical set in the late 1920s.

Our protagonist, the lovable Tony makes his appearance midway through the first act. Actor Sean Buhr makes Tony the most charming, Italian older gentleman humanly possible. So what if maybe he has a couple screws loose? All of his logic seems to be the logic of love, and he quickly becomes perfectly enamored with the waitress in the diner.

Frank and Rosabella’s love affair (via mail) leads him to send her a proposal, and—because his sister has made him worry about his perhaps lacking physical appearance—he includes picture of one of his workers Joey. Upon arriving, Rosabella realizes the mix up, yet has one passionate night with Joey. We’re taken down a road of suspenseful humor to see how the waitress’ love triangle unravels, and the ensuing consequences of her actions.

The vocal talent of the cast is absolutely amazing. Notably, Tzeitel Abrego (as Tony’s sister Marie) impresses with her steady high notes. Along with her are the charismatic Texan duo Cleo and Herman, brought together by Tony and Rosabella’s romance, played by Joanne Shea and Kenneth Francoeur, respectively. Their delivery of “Big D”—an ode to good old Dallas—was an wonderful portrayal of the good-humored, fanciful nature of “Most Happy Fella.” With neat, sharp choreography and skilled voices, there’s no way they could go wrong.

The audience was buzzing with excitement during intermission, wondering what would happen in the second act. By the end of the play, all were standing in pure admiration, clapping along with the theme music played by the incredibly talented orchestra down in the pit. Indeed, Frank Loesser’s gem of a play will make happy fellows out of anyone who sees it.

Diamond is a contributing writer. Email her at theater@nyunews.com.

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