By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Depression-era revues served as precursors of the New Faces shows of the 1950s and, in the way they blended mass-market comedy, political satire, celebrity gossip and popular music, they grandparented TV's later comedy-variety shows, including Laugh-In, The Carol Burnett Show and TV's longest-running revue, NBC's Saturday Night Live.
A good sense of how this show must have looked and sounded 76 years ago is on the stage in the Lyric production directed by Len Pfluger, with musical direction by Gary Okeson (the sole musician, playing piano for all 11 songs). The performers—Pearlman, McGrann, Jackson, Benton, Diana Sheehan and Brian Patrick Hathaway—are all fine singers, and though there isn't a lot of difficult hoofing, they step lively. Designer Scott Osborne makes his own editorial statement on a set that reproduces giant pages of The New York Times.
Parallels to the current political and economic situation ring out in As Thousands Cheer, more reason to justify Lyric's reviving this rarely seen musical. Now, as then, the stock market is a mess, unemployment is rising and banks are begging for help. We need the laughs as much as, maybe more than those 1930s theatergoers.
Perhaps the biggest dose of nostalgia is this show's reverence for newspapers and all the great stuff readers used to get in their daily rag. Imagine writing a musical revue honoring today's hottest news medium, Twitter. You'd get 140 characters and not one memorable line.