Review by Iris Greenberger
Based on Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Anna Christie, New Girl in Town is a classic tale: a beautiful but fallen woman meets a dashing man who instantly sweeps her off her feet, only to lose him before love conquers all. New Girl in Town had a Tony-nominated Broadway run in 1957, and in the hands of skillful director Charlotte Moore, this musical still feels fresh.
Just off the train from St. Paul, Minnesota, Anna (Margaret Loesser Robinson) arrives at a dingy saloon on New York City’s seedy waterfront in 1926. She is looking for her estranged father, Chris Christopherson (Cliff Bemis) a Swedish coal barge captain whom she last saw when she was five years old. Chris’s longtime girlfriend is the feisty Marthy (Danielle Ferland). When Anna falls hard for Matt (Patrick Cummings), a shipwrecked sailor, her dark past comes back to haunt her, thanks in part to the gossipy Marthy.
Margaret Loesser Robinson has a beautiful voice and she captures all of Anna’s mixed emotions. Patrick Cummings is perfectly cast as the handsome young sailor who gives Anna hope of a better life, and his voice is powerful and moving. Danielle Ferland can’t help but steal every scene she is in as the jealous older woman who is threatened by Anna’s presence. Cliff Bemis is convincing as a father who is trying hard to reconnect with a daughter he hardly knows.
To sum it up, this production has got a winning formula: a timeless story, top-notch actors and actresses with lovely voices, a catchy score with a mix of upbeat songs and romantic ballads played just right by a four-piece orchestra plus sax, and a snazzy ensemble of dancing sailors and saloon girls who have some great moves. Don’t let the connection to O’Neill’s dark Anna Christie drama mislead you; this revival provides two hours of pure, good old-fashioned entertainment.
“New Girl in Town” continues through September 9 at The Irish Repertory Theatre,132 West 22nd Street; 212-727-2737, www.irishrep.org