The original Encores! production featured an all-star cast that included Jerry Zaks, Faith Prince, Gregg Edelman, Liz Callaway, Philip Bosco and Donna McKechnie. It put the series on the map and in the heart of every musical theater lover. This new revival of a revival has some stars (Kate Baldwin, Shuler Hensley, Emily Skinner) but it left this theater lover cold.
Short and round, Rutigliano bares a physical resemblance to LaGuardia and he works hard but he simply doesn’t have La Guardia’s star power. When Rutigliano finished the song “The Name’s LaGuardia,” at the performance my husband K and I attended, he sounded neither triumphant nor determined, but just relieved to have gotten through it.
And, as any regular Encores! goer knows, the actors now make it a point to be off book and to put a little zing into their performances. Baldwin even hired a dialect coach to help with her character's Italian accent (click here to read an interview with her).
Baldwin plays LaGuardia’s first wife, who died from tuberculosis two years after they married. She gets to sing the big second act ballad “When Did I Fall in Love.” And she sings the hell out of it. But, even putting aside her still shaky accent, the rest of Baldwin’s performance is pretty one note.