A quarter-of-a-century mark is traditionally feted with silver. The powers that be at New York City Center Encores! seem to have read that as … sliver.
“Hey, Look Me Over!,” which opens the 25th Encores! season and runs through Sunday, offers slivers of 10 lesser-known musicals, mostly from the 1960s, that have never been presented for the concert series.
And for good reason, they’ve all got issues — and a sliver is enough, thanks very much.
Still, Encores! deserves credit for trying out an experiment and assembling a game cast directed by Marc Bruni (“Beautiful”). Stars include Carolee Carmello, Vanessa Williams, Reed Birney, Judy Kuhn, Tam Mutu, Marc Kudish, Bebe Neuwirth and one big fun surprise — no spoilers here.
This 2 1/2-hour revue isn’t about wall-to-wall hits and showstoppers. Still, bright spots shine.
That includes Bob Martin, who emcees as Man Chair, the fussy fictional theater know-it-all he played in “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Man in Chair takes credit for curating the evening. Theater insiders will get the joke, others will catch up. Or not — it works either way. Martin’s wit and weirdness rock steady during mini-intros and, in one case, outro, for showcased musicals: “Wildcat,” “All American,” “Jamaica,” “Milk and Honey,” “Mack & Mabel,” “Greenwillow,” “Sail Away” and “George M!”
“Mack & Mabel, with Douglas Sills and Alexandra Socha as, respectively silent filmmaker Mack Sennett and his starry discovery Mabel Normand, is the evening’s overall highlight. The songs “Movies Were Movies” and “Look What Happened to Mabel,” expertly sung, came to life in shades of black-and-white pre-talkies glory thanks to ace design work.
The evening ended on a high note with a poignant, politically charged encore that speaks eloquently to the hot-button issue of immigration. The whole cast sang “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor” from the show “Miss Liberty.”
Even when an Encores! production leaves something to be desired, it’s a reminder that looking back helps you see where you are and where you’re going.