Today’s Wall Street Journal drama column is half New York, half not. From East Haddam, Connecticut, I report on a rare revival of High Button Shoes by Goodspeed Musicals. Off Broadway, it’s Charles Mee’s Iphigenia 2.0. How’s that for an incongruous pairing? Anyway, here goes nothing:
Long before Phil Silvers was Sgt. Bilko, he was stopping the show as Harrison Floy, the old-time con man who is the star of “High Button Shoes,” one of the biggest musical-comedy hits of 1947. It ran for 727 performances, brought choreographer Jerome Robbins his first Tony–and then, like so many other well-received musicals, disappeared into the theatrical memory hole. Except for two numbers restaged by Robbins 42 years later for “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” “High Button Shoes” has never been revived in New York. Goodspeed Musicals, which regularly exhumes forgotten shows, put it on in 1982, but that appears to be the only time the show has been produced anywhere since its original Broadway run. Now Goodspeed is giving “High Button Shoes” a second outing at its handsome headquarters, an immaculately preserved 1876 opera house overlooking the Connecticut River. I drove up there the other day to satisfy my longstanding curiosity about a long-forgotten musical and discovered, to my delight, that “High Button Shoes” is not for antiquarians only….
I’m not in the habit of praising stridently political drama, but I know a good thing when I see one, and Charles Mee’s “Iphigenia 2.0,” a contemporary rewrite of Euripides’ “Iphigenia in Aulis” in which the audience is tacitly invited to reflect on the hubris and downfall of George W. Bush, is an avant-garde spectacular that is more than sufficiently exciting to overcome any objections you may have to onstage sermonizing.