City Center's inaugural season of Encores! Off-Center winds up an exciting July with Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford's I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road. Kathleen Marshall's fully-staged concert version of the 1978 Off-Broadway hit opened last night and plays four more performances, through July 27.
Magnifying the power of this little-seen piece is the performance of Renee Elise Goldsberry as a 39-year-old singer/songwriter looking to make a comeback with a feminist-slanted cabaret act. Goldsberry is not a Broadway newcomer; her credits include the Pulitzer-winning Good People (in which she played the upper class wife of Frances McDormand's high school boyfriend) and the final Mimi in Rent. The latter performance was preserved in "Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway." Goldsberry also has been a presence on television's "One Life to Live" and "The Good Wife."
But last night's audience seemed little prepared for Goldsberry's masterful performance, both as a singer (leading all but two of the songs) and as an actress. Working with what might seem dated material about a traditional 1960s wife determined to finally "put myself out there the way I am," Goldsberry arguably makes the script more convincing than it was when lyricist/librettist Cryer originated the role down at Joe Papp's Public Theater. The show was poorly received back then, but it managed to find an audience and transfer to the old Circle in the Square on Bleecker Street. I'm Getting My Act Together flourished for a three-year run of 1,165 performances, with Cryer followed by (among others) Virginia Vestoff, Carol Hall, Betty Buckley, Phyllis Newman and composer Ford.
Goldsberry is joined by Frederick Weller (Take Me Out) as her chauvinistic manager/ex-lover, and Christina Sajous and Jennifer Sanchez as her very supportive backup singers. Jason Rabinowitz is a helpful presence in Don Scardino's old role as a 24-year-old guitarist who, out of the blue, professes love for the 39-year-old leading lady.
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