The superb Gwen Verdon sings and dances and mugs through this very good adaptation of the smash Broadway musical. Verdon is a cross between Shirley MacLaine and Carol Burnett with a dash of Carol Haney (another Bob Fosse protégé) tossed in. She's a total delight and one of the best dancers EVER! Here she plays Lola, the temptress used by the devil (Ray Walston) to lure Joe Hardy (Tab Hunter) from going back to his wife and breaking his satanic deal in which middle-aged Joe becomes a 22-year-old baseball star and catapults the Washington Senators to 1st place.
Tab Hunter replaces Stephen Douglass from the Broadway show. The rest of the cast recreates their parts for the movie. Verdon, Walston, and Russ Brown (the manager) all won Tony awards. Hunter seems rather stiff and uncomfortable through much of the film (though he looks great) but that's the part of Joe.... Hunter is, however, just terrific in the "Two Lost Souls" number with Verdon. He sings, dances (not too bad) and seems to be having a ball. Verdon is just astounding in this number and laughs all the way thru it. Great song.
Verdon is also a showstopper in "Whatever Lola Wants" and "A Little Brains, a Little Talent." It seems these songs were written for her and no one else can do them the way she does. Verdon, like Ethel Merman or Carold Channing, was a total original. The voice is slightly nasal; the inflection is odd. But it works. And her dancing is totally awesome.
Ray Walston seems to have been typecast in weirdo roles after Damn Yankees and My Favorite Martian. He was a better actor than these roles allowed him to show. Russ Brown is solid as the manager, Jean Stapleton plays the friend (and sings), Rae Allen is Gloria (the reporter), Shannon Bolin is the wife, Jimmie Komack is the goofy ballplayer, Nathaniel Frey is Smokey, Bob Fosse has a cameo in "Who's Got the Pain," and Robert Shafer plays old Joe.
Good songs by the same team that did The Pajama Game. Many of the songs were hits of the later 50s. My only beef is that most of the songs are truncated (I had the Broadway soundtrack) and at least one "I Thought About the Game" is used only as background music. Verdon's "A Little Brains, a Little Talent" is cut in half as is Bolin's "Six Months Out of Every Year." Certainly worth a look to see Broadway superstar Gwen Verdon in her prime and Tab Hunter at his hunkiest.
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