Definitely Doris

By Leo P. Carusone and Patty Carver
Directed by Leo P. Carusone
At the 57 Theatre
Stuart Streeet, Boston, Through November

Reviewed by G.L. Horton

"Definitely Doris" is the inaugural show at the new 57 Theatre, formerly a mid-sized cinema house within the 57 Hotel. Producers Jerry Goehring and Robert Mellor deserve a vote of thanks from the community for presenting Boston with this comfortable new facility at the edge of the downtown theatre district. "Definitely Doris", written and arranged by Leo P. Carusone and Patty Carver , is a review made up of songs recorded by Day, snippets from her fan mail, bits from her biography, and some of the commercials she made in the fifties for products she endorsed. Before I saw the show I asked myself, "why"? But the answer to that was sitting two seats over, smiling happily and singing along with every number.

I was astonished to discover that I could have sung along, too. Most of "Definitely Doris"'s featured songs, from "Jeepers Creepers" to "A Guy Is a Guy" are lodged in my memory, every note and word. This is all the more remarkable because to the best of my recollection I never deliberately listened to any of them. (No, I didn't reject Tin Pan Alley for Rock and Roll. I was a snob as a kid: the records I bought with my allowance were classical) The typical Doris Day novelty number, the kind with simple --one might almost say simple-minded-- lyrics, mostly about the kind of love that goes together with marriage like a horse and carriage, and expects to live happily ever after; set to a catchy tune --- this kind of song was in the air, and inescapable. The tunes and lyrics were easy enough to be memorized after a couple of hearings, whistled at work, sung in the shower or on the schoolbus traveling to the Game. Hearing them again brings back what seems from the distance of today a simpler, easier time. Those who remember that time fondly, or those younger people who imagine that their lives would have been better had they been born a generation or two earlier, are going to find "Definitely Doris" a fun night out.

Boston's fabled designers Helen Pond and Herbert Senn have provided "Doris" with a sweet little gazebo to hold the on stage combo, flanked by two of the circa 1910 white clapboard houses that say "stable Midwestern small town", the kind of place that represents home sweet home to the constituency of Bob Dole. The combo's good, especially Michael Leonard on woodwinds, and the five vocalists who perform the 42 songs are assured professionals: Robert Amirante, Nancy Carroll, Michael Iannucci , and cute as a button Kathy St. George . I found it problematic that their singing styles were at odds with what I think of as the Day style. Not that the performers are deliberately camping it up -- maybe they should? --but that their interpretations are sometimes mannered to the point of unconscious parody. I think that Doris Day won so many hearts because she had the ability to sing silly songs and play stereotypical roles "straight", with purity of intention and tone; while at the same time there was in her performances a sense of untapped reserves, of a real and complex human being behind them. The Hallmark Card of conventional sentiment expressed in conventional terms aspired to the dignity of poetry through the artistry of the packaging.

The program for "Definitely Doris" also contains a card that you can fill out and send in to join the International Doris Day Society, which, "in addition to promoting the music, movies and career of Doris Day, works closely with Ms. Day on her commitment to animals through the Doris Day Animal League"