Review: ‘Marry Harry’ at The York Theatre Company

With apologies to James Morgan and the York Theatre Company (“York Theatre”) for this very late review of their current offering Marry Harry. I saw this new musical on April 30, but in the last-minute rush of musicals arriving in the days before season’s end, I did not get to reviewing it until now.

Morgan Cowling. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

This warmhearted original has had a long and varied development, with its first reading at Vassar in 2011 and a workshop at Amas Musical Theatre in 2012. The New York Musical Theatre Festival gave it further life in 2013, and the venerable York Theatre got involved in the summer of 2016, when Cagney director Bill Castellino took over and helped shape it into the full production which is currently on the Main Stage at the York Theatre. There, Producing Artistic Director Morgan is doing what he does best – helping another new musical (as he did with Cagney, which is about to end a 15-month commercial run off Broadway) find its way into the mainstream of American musicals.

It’s heartening to be able to report that the journey for author Jennifer Robbins, Composer Dan Martin, and Lyricist Michael Biello was worth it. They’ve delivered an engaging evening of merriness that should have a life in the community theatres that cater to family audiences who have been deprived in recent years of recognizable stories and songs reflecting the middle class lives they lead.

David Spadora. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Marry Harry is a “comfort food” piece about the chaos that follows the announcement that Harry wants to marry Sherri, a lovely young lady whom he met – yesterday. Harry (at 30, still called “Little Harry” by his dad) works at the family bakery in the East Village, but has a great desire to spread his wings and become sous chef to high-toned Upper East Side restaurant chef, Lidia Bastianich. Harry has a chance meeting with Sherri who, with her Mom, is completing final preparations for her fancy wedding to a good-looking Romeo. A cellphone error informs her that Romeo has bedded another woman, and she promptly dumps him.

Sherri’s encounter with Harry leads to instant chemistry and to their decision to marry – despite the howls of disapproval from her uptown Mother and his downtown Father. If this sounds sophomoric, be patient; the material that gives dimension to these characters is adroit, simple and charming.

The authors employ three “Village Voices” (Ben Chavez, Jesse Manocherian, and Claire Saunders) to comment on everything, as well as to supply harmonic backgrounds to the principals’ solos. They introduced us at the top of the show to “A New Day,” then let us know a lot about Big and Little Harry in “Harry’s Way.” The Voices join the young man in “Lidia,” which explains his desire to leave Dad’s bakery, then they back Sherri’s mother Francine in an ode to her daughter who will soon be “Newly Wed.” We become involved as the two youngsters (both of whom are approaching 30) begin to discover how much they have in common and how much they’ve been missing as they’ve not yet cut their umbilical cords with Big Harry and Francine, who are very different, but equally controlling, parents.

Marry Harry’s unpretentious score is accessible and its lyrics have wit and insight, but if these characters have a “dark side,” this is not the musical to give it a home. It deals with family connection and influence, and the use of the combined talents of the young couple to find their own way in the adult world (they have a charming duet about “Nonnina’s Biscotti” and how it might just become as famous as McDonald’s hamburgers).

Ben Chavez, Jesse Manocherian, and Claire Saunders. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Morgan Cowling and David Spadora are attractive and totally believable as two emerging adults. Lenny Wolpe brings a big voice and a forceful personality to this father, who has great respect for “The Family Name” and almost too much love for his only son. Robin Skye is the perfect WASP mother, a character we don’t run into much anymore. Both are well-rounded in the writing and in the performance; good people who are willing to bend a little to ensure the happiness of their children.

Jim Morgan has designed a happy city set as background for a cheerful show. The Village Voices wear everything from table cloths to wedding gowns and are always fun to have around. They add much to the spirit of the evening, and they remind us three times during the evening that “A New Day” can bring change and fulfillment. As Little Harry and Sherri wrap up the proceedings with “You Opened a Door,” we leave the theater with a smile on our collective faces.

Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, with no intermission.

Marry Harry plays through Sunday, May 21, 2017, at The York Theatre Company in the lower level of St Peter’s Church – 619 Lexington, in    New York City. For tickets, call (212) 935-5820, or purchase them online.

Michael Biello and Dan Martin Are Grooming for the Opening of Marry Harry, by Deb Miller.

Review: Marry Harry at The York Theatre Company, by Deb Miller.



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Richard Seff
RICHARD SEFF has been working in theatre since he made his acting debut in support of Claude Rains in the prize winning DARKNESS AT NOON, and he agreed to tour the next season in support of Edward G. Robinson, which took him across the nation and back for nine months. When it was over and he was immediately offered another national tour with THE SHRIKE with Van Heflin, he decided to explore other areas, and he spent the next 22 years representing artists in the theatre as an agent, where he worked at Liebling-Wood, MCA, eventually a partnership of his own called Hesseltine-Bookman and Seff, where he discovered and developed young talents like Chita Rivera, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Ron Field, Linda Lavin, Nancy Dussault and many others. He ultimately sold his interest to ICM. When he completed his contractual obligation to that international agency, he returned to his first love, acting and writing for the theatre. In that phase of his long and varied life, he wrote a comedy (PARIS IS OUT!) which brightened the 1970 season on Broadway for 107 performances. He became a successful supporting player in film, tv and onstage, and ultimately wrote a book about his journey, SUPPORTING PLAYER: MY LIFE UPON THE WICKED STAGE, still popular with older theatre lovers and youngsters who may not yet know exactly where they will most sensibly and profitably fit into the world of show business. The book chronicles a life of joyous work working in a favored profession in many areas, including leading roles in the regional theatres in his work in Lanford Wilson's ANGELS FALL. His last stage role was in THE COUNTESS in which he played Mr. Ruskin for 9 months off Broadway. Five seasons ago Joel Markowitz suggested he join him at DCTheatreScene. His accurate and readable reviews of the New York Scene led, when the time was right, for his joining DCMetroTheaterArts to continue bringing news of the Big Apple's productions just to keep you posted. He is delighted to be able to join DCMTA and work with Joel and hopes that you like what he has to say.


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