Review: The Goodbye Girl

Mean guy moves out, nice guy moves in—now everybody sing!

None of this peppy piffle would be half so entertaining without the presence of lithe-limbed Gregory Lush, who recently played Henry Higgins in Theatre Three's fine little production of Shaw's Pygmalion. Lush sells the thin material in Goodbye Girl with believable enthusiasm, a warm baritone voice and terrific physical oomph. Doesn't hurt that he spends a good portion of the first act in his boxer shorts, but it's later when he's decked out in a white dinner jacket for a kissy rooftop date with Paula that he morphs into a combination of Donald O'Connor and British musical comedy star Robert Lindsey (it's those dimples).

If only Ms. Greene were a better match for Lush performance-wise. She's one of those offbeat actresses of indeterminate age who could pass for late 20s or push it to early 40s, depending on the lighting. Since Theatre Three eschews head mikes for amplification, Greene resorts to over-singing to be heard above the musicians and that results in some distortions that garble lyrics. She also makes funny faces when she sings. And she'd be 10 times more attractive if she got a decent haircut. The lady has more unruly locks cascading around her face than the Cowardly Lion.

The nice chemistry between Greene and her onstage offspring, Ruby Westfall, is fine, however. They're real-life mom and daughter too. Westfall is a dilly as Lucy, with a voice that's clearer and more consistently on-pitch than Greene's. Westfall and Lush share the simplest, most touching scene in the show as he pushes her on a Central Park swing, singing the ballad "I Can Play This Part" about wanting to win the role of her stepdad.

Get ready to  gush over Gregory Lush—with Natalie King, Ruby Westfall and Lisa-Gabrielle Greene—in Theatre Three's The Goodbye Girl.
Andy Hanson
Get ready to gush over Gregory Lush—with Natalie King, Ruby Westfall and Lisa-Gabrielle Greene—in Theatre Three's The Goodbye Girl.

In a role that's completely gratuitous but thoroughly enjoyable—wasn't every musical in the 1990s required to have a black female character who belts a show-stopping gospel-style song?—Natalie King thunders across the stage now and then as landlady/baby-sitter Mrs. Crosby. Darius-Anthony Robinson gets some kicks in as "Ricky Simpson," the Richard Simmons-esque exercise imp whose show hires Paula to dance around as a plate of greasy French fries.

That's silly and dumb, like a lot of The Goodbye Girl. But just as with fast food, musical comedies like this are satisfying diversions from heavier fare now and then. Especially when they feature a dish like Lush.

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