Theater review: Fall in Love Again with ‘Promises, Promises’

Promises Promises 1FRANKLIN, Tenn. – One hundred shows, 75 of them musicals, are parts of an acclaimed production history since the lights went up on the first Boiler Room Theatre presentation in 2001. If you want proof Williamson County’s long-running professional troupe is not resting on its laurels, though, go see its exuberant revival of Promises, Promises.

What, you’re not surprised that Boiler Room has another success on its hands? Okay, you shouldn’t be – a strong cast led by the thoroughly talented Megan Murphy Chambers and Patrick Kramer (and directed by musical maven Jamey Green) presents a 1968 Neil Simon/Burt Bacharach/Hal David musical based on the classic 1960 film The Apartment that sprang from the genius of Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. But we can all appreciate the material and its execution by the pros at BRT.

Promises Promises 4If you don’t know the basic story, here’s the setup: Chuck Baxter (Kramer) is an ambitious young professional looking for any way to climb the company ladder at Consolidated Insurance Company. He accidentally stumbles on the path to promotion when he lends his apartment to executives for their extramarital affairs. This cozy arrangement gets complicated when Baxter falls for Fran Kubelik (Chambers), a waitress at the company cafeteria who has her own after-hours assignation.

If all you’ve ever heard from this show is the hit cover of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” by Dionne Warwick you’re in for a real treat with the entire score – Warwick had a hit with “Promises, Promises” too, but beyond that title tune there’s a great mix of serious and silly in “Grapes of Roth,” “You’ll Think of Someone,” “Where Can You Take a Girl?,” “Turkey Lurkey Time” and “A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing” among others. The 2010 Broadway revival added the well-known Bacharach-David songs “I Say a Little Prayer” and ”A House Is Not a Home” to the show; they’re not part of the BRT presentation, but that’s okay since the included numbers all move the story along nicely.

Promises Promises 3Also moving things along nicely is the smooth and steady pacing installed by Green, the brass-bright 1960s verve that Musical Director Ben Van Diepen and his fellow musicians – Scott Steward, Rick Malkin, Tom McGinley, Doug Bright and Dale Herr – create with their playing and some fun-loving choreography courtesy of Billy Ditty. Anthony Popolo’s color-tiled set (along with his lively lighting) keeps you in the period and with several working parts transforms the intimate BRT stage into a variety of New York locations.

The actors that strut, sing and say their stuff (attired in yet another set of character-enhancing costumes from Katie Delaney) use their energy and abilities to make this multi-layered musical completely engaging. Chambers and Kramer have plenty of sterling stage credits together and separately over the years and this outing burnishes those gleaming records; both handle the comedic and serious moments and music with equal assurance. Nothing against Warwick, but I’ll keep Chamber’s beautiful take on “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” any day.

Promises Promises 7The support for the leads and the story is also bright – from David Arnold’s somewhat slimy Sheldrake and Laura Crockarell’s bawdy and hilarious Marge to Brian Hill’s seen-it-all executive Dobitch and Phil Perry’s no-nonsense Dr. Dreyfuss, as well as contributions from the rest of the company, this Promises, Promises sparkles. No, it’s not a surprise when BRT succeeds with a musical, but it’s certainly an impressive feat to keep churning out the hits again and again.

Boiler Room Theatre presents Promises, Promises through July 20 at The Factory at Franklin (230 Franklin Rd., Bldg. Six). Shows are at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with additional performances at 2 p.m. July 14 and 8 p.m. July 18. Tickets are $27; $25 for seniors age 60 and older, students 13 through college with a valid ID and military/law enforcement; and $21 for children 3-12. Matinees are $2 less; Thursday shows are $17; and Tuesday admission is two for $27. For more info or tickets call (615) 794-7744 or visit www.boilerroomtheatre.com.

Promises Promises 11*Photos by Rick Malkin courtesy Rick Malkin Photography and BRT.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for ArtNowNashville.com from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman’s “The People vs Larry Flynt” among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (www.americantheatrecritics.org).