By George

Mister Abbott -- A Broadway Legacy

An even greater obstacle to presenting Abbott's career is that, despite references in the show to the "Abbott touch," no particular characteristic denotes an Abbott work. His is the story of a man who, thanks to his unique talent, propelled himself into the right place at the right time (OK, 122 right times) and was able to work with and influence his most brilliant contemporaries -- from Harold Prince to Jerome Robbins, Jule Styne, and Leonard Bernstein. His mounting of On the Town, with Bernstein, Comden, and Green, which took only six months to put together, is legendary. His ability to take a failing show and turn it into gold is myth in every sense of the word.

The songs the cast gets to sing are heaven-sent
The songs the cast gets to sing are heaven-sent


Conceived and developed by Joy Abbott, Craig D. Ames, Lynnette Barkley, and J. Barry Lewis. Directed by Lewis, Abbott, and Barkley. Musical direction by Ames. Starring Doug Blevins, Tom Kenaston, Sheryl McCallum, Jeanne Montano, Adam Pelty, and Ellen Sowney. Accompaniment by Carlos Moran, Lee Harris, and Ames. Through September 5.
Florida Stage, Plaza Del Mar, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan, 561-585-3404 or 800-514-3837.

Indeed, in addition to producing and directing, Abbott was best known for doctoring the works of other directors. At one point the performers in Mister Abbott tell us that Abbott's gifts were his judgment and his taste. That's accurate, perhaps, but nearly impossible to demonstrate. Unlike, say, the more famous "Lubitsch touch," for which you can point to a moment on film and isolate some bit of action or a visual fillip that identifies director Ernst Lubitsch, the Abbott touch took place, in most cases, before the show opened. In Mister Abbott, we see the magic that resulted without ever really understanding the man who waved the wand.

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