By Steven Suskin
29 May 2014
Finneran has been hitting comedic bull's-eyes since her first major role in Neil Simon's 1997 Proposals. The play itself wasn't funny, but Finneran–as a dim-witted model–sure was. After a dramatic role in Kevin Spacey's 1999 production of The Iceman Cometh, she stole the stage from Patti LuPone & Co. in the 2001 revival of Noises Off. Following forays on screen and television, she returned as barfly Marge MacDougall in the 2010 revival of Simon's Promises, Promises. Finneran took Tony Awards for the latter two roles, and deserved them.
Annie was a strange exercise, with the star seeming severely miscast or misdirected. Most probably the latter, as Finneran–left to her own devices–could probably come up with a better Miss Hannigan than she appeared to be at the Palace. Five minutes at 54 Below, though, is all she needs to wipe the whole episode away. The verdict is that Finneran's sense of comedy is just as strong as ever it was. It Might Be You is a thorough treat, and might surprise those who have seen her only in Annie.
The headliner slinked onto the podium in a crinkly black gown, shushing the house with "It's Oh, So Quiet," a Betty Hutton song from 1951 which allowed Finneran to alter hot and cold from phrase to phrase. Her patter roughly hit upon the outlines of her career, beginning with her arrival in Manhattan as a 19-year-old in 1990. Anecdotes included one about the time when–while working as a waitress in the Crystal Room at Tavern on the Green–she spilled a tray full of Bloody Marys, and "it looked like I shot somebody." She presented her original audition song–Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane's "What Do You Think I Am?" (from Best Foot Forward), and followed it with a more worldly, scatological version.
Katie Finneran's It Might Be You is at 54 Below, through May 31. Finneran is very funny indeed–a very funny lady, to borrow from the subtitle title of her act. It's a pleasure to see her back on the New York stage, after Annie, her comic touch undiminished.