The Grand Tour

Grand-Tour-editOriginal Broadway Cast, 1979 (Columbia/Fynsworth Alley) 2 Stars (2 / 5) This is the cheeriest musical ever written about escaping from the Nazis. Jerry Herman has dismissed the show as a mistake (“It just didn’t have the energy and excitement to be a real hit”), but no Herman score is without interest. Michael Stewart adapted S. N. Behrman’s play Jacobowsky and the Colonel, itself an adaptation of a work by Franz Werfel. Set in 1940, the plot centers on a Jewish refugee (Joel Grey) trying to get out of German-occupied France in the company of a chilly, anti-Semitic Polish colonel (Ron Holgate) and his girlfriend, Marianne (Florence Lacey). Some of the score is extraordinary, including Jacobowsky’s signature tune “I’ll Be Here Tomorrow,” rendered unforgettably by Grey; Marianne’s hymn to her home, “I Belong Here”; and Holgate’s lovely ballad “Marianne.” But Herman’s generally bouncy attitude has an undermining effect on what is, after all, a very dramatic story. A number on a train, “We’re Almost There,” is disconcertingly upbeat. So is “You I Like,” sung when the two men finally bond. “For Poland,” in which Jacobowsky coaxes the colonel into letting him come along, sounds like the football fight song of a Midwestern university. (Philip J. Lang’s orchestrations only accentuate the positive.) All three leads are superb, however, and the score is never less than easy to take. — David Barbour