Thursday, August 5, 2010

Promises Promises

Yesterday, my mom and sister and I went to New York's Broadway Theatre to see"Promises, Promises," starring Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth. It was a revival of a 1960s play of the same name, which was based on an earlier 1960s movie, The Apartment, starring Jack Lemon and Shirley MacLaine. In a nutshell, it was the story of a lowly office worker, C. C. "Chuck" Baxter, who gets sucked into lending his apartment to the senior executives for rendezvoux with their mistresses only to discover that the girl he's in love with, Fran Kubelik, is his boss's, mistress. It's cute and campy yet underscored by the shadows of the male chauvinism that dominated the workplace of the 1960s. (One review I read aptly compared it to "Mad Men".) But unlike "Mad Men," (SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!), "Promises, Promises," finds a moral high ground and stakes its claim there. Ever the "good guy," Chuck saves Fran after a failed suicide attempt brought on by the news that Mr. Sheldrake is not leaving his wife. By the time Mr. Sheldrake crawls back to report that he is, after all, free and asks for Fran's hand in marriage, she's already fallen in love with Chuck, securing the classic happy ending. Snappy dance numbers, stellar singing, and period humor made "Promises, Promises," a joy to watch. Incidentally, it also inspired me to commit to buying a fedora I'd been eying in J. C. Penney's. (Chuck sports one despite his worry that it makes him look like James Cagney. His was gray; mine is pink and black.)

As a side note, it occurred to me that the movie The Baxter was probably based on Chuck Baxter's character. The Baxter is about Elliot Sherman (Michael Showalter), a guy who lets people walk all over him. Indeed, the name Baxter becomes synonymous with anyone who's a malleable yes man, establishing the theme of the movie. Elliot's fiance (Elizabeth Banks) is cheating on him with her high school boyfriend, and he's powerless to stop her. Meanwhile, he becomes friendly with his offbeat temp secretary (Michelle Williams), who is enmeshed in a relationship with a Baxter of her own (the inimitable and always-easy-on-the-eyes Paul Rudd). In the end, Elliot gets jilted at the alter when the high school boyfriend busts in. Elliot ends up with the secretary, who has overthrown her own boyfriend for being too "Baxterish." Poor Paul Rudd ends up with no one. Although it's a little more complicated than The Apartment and "Promises, Promises," the parallels between C. C. Baxter and Elliot are definitely there.

Now that the deepness is over and done with, it's time to share an interesting tidbit I learned after reading the "Promises, Promises" playbill. It turns out that Sean Hayes (of "Will and Grace" fame) is the executive producer of that new TVland sitcom "Hot in Cleveland" co-starring Betty White. Small world, huh?

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