Following the patriotic tuner 1776, Los Angeles' Reprise! musical reading series continues dealing with American themes as it examines the Italian immigrants to California in Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella, closing at the Freud Playhouse Nov. 18. George Ball, Anastasia Barzee, Rodney Gilfry and Jennifer Leigh Warren star in the production, directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman (Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks).
Ball, who plays mature vineyard owner Tony, has performed many major musical roles in the Los Angeles area, including the title role in Sweeney Todd and Frederick in A Little Night Music. Barzee, the lonely San Francisco waitress Rosabella, played in the West End musical Napoleon and in Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde and Miss Saigon. An international opera star who created the role of Stanley Kowalski in Sir Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire, Gilfry plays Joe, the handsome but egotistical ranch hand who forms the final third of Happy Fella's love triangle. Warren, who is Cleo, Rosabella's best friend, starred in The Education of Randy Newman and the original companies of Marie Christine, Little Shop of Horrors and Big River.
First produced on Broadway in 1956 (the same year as My Fair Lady), The Most Happy Fella tells of the complicated romance that blossoms between Tony and Rosabella. When he leaves her a proposal of marriage at the restaurant where she works, Tony begins a writing relationship with Rosabella. She asks for a photo and, worried that he is too old and ugly for her, Tony sends a picture of his ranch foreman, Joe. Rosabella comes to Tony's vineyard in Napa on the strength of that handsome face, but is shocked and surprised by who Tony actually is. Tragedy strikes, however, and is just enough to bring the two together, teaching them both the true meaning of love. Loesser's score includes the songs "Standing on the Corner," "Joey, Joey, Joey," "Big D," "Somebody, Somewhere" and "My Heart Is so Full of You."
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the next entry in the Reprise! season, will play March 5-17, 2002. The Jule Styne-Leo Robin musical includes the classic "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."
Tickets to The Most Happy Fella are $55-$60. The Freud Playhouse is located in UCLA's Macgowan Hall. Call (310) 825-2101 or Ticketmaster Fine Arts Line for information. — By Christine Ehren