anything that moves benefits tremendously from its rewrites. Ann-Marie MacDonald and Allen Cole's musical premiered last year, but the better-focused version now at the Tarragon (a co-pro with Nightwood) features more defined characters, people we can actually care about.
The plot is pretty much the same: lonely florist Joel (Tim Howar) falls for genetic scientist Jinny (Glynis Ranney), who thinks he's gay and therefore safe to befriend. The misunderstanding is helped along by Joel's gay chum Tyrone (Juan Chioran). Add to the mix Joel's seemingly stiff father, Arthur (George Masswohl), Jinny's vampish mother, Fleur (Judy Marshak), and Alberta (Sandra Caldwell), a lesbian funeral director desperate for a baby, and the mayhem escalates.
MacDonald's revised book, written with director Alisa Palmer, has become a nicely set-up narrative with increased dramatic tension. The highlight of Cole's score, which includes some new numbers, is Jinny's ballad Because I'm Not In Love, while the bluesy Menopausal Mama and act-two opener The Wardrobe Crisis tease with MacDonald's clever lyrics.
The acting gives the piece an added boost, starting with the great chemistry between Ranney and Howar. Ranney's always been a standout musical theatre performer, and here she hits just the right blend of tartness, charm and sincerity. Caldwell gives great sass as the infant-fixated Alberta, while Chioran and Marshak know how to play a comic line. Masswohl succeeds less well, but that's because his character -- and the father/son relationship -- is the script's least developed aspect.