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Theater: Amiable Amble

2 minute read

Walking Happy might have been called My Fair Laddie. This musical substitutes a semiarticulate Lancashire bootmaker, Will Mossop (Norman Wisdom), for that semiarticulate Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle. It puts the Professor Higgins role of personality remolder into the hands of Maggie Hobson (Louise Troy), a granite-spined spinster of 30. Her father, meek Will Mossop’s employer, is a Victorian boot merchant, martinet and toper (George Rose) who almost drops the copper mug from his mutton chops when he learns that his daughter plans to marry Mossop, who is so far below the stairs that he has to be summoned up through a trap door in stage center. Predictably and pleasantly, love leaps the class barrier.

As the man forced to marry above himself, Britain’s Wisdom is a beguiling comic find. He looks as if he had dressed for his own funeral and contracted some form of permanent facial neuralgia. In the British music-hall tradition, the nose is the voice he was born with, and he twangs a song all the way to Row Z. He can dance like a grasshopper.

Indeed, all the dances are pulverizingly good for a musical that is never noticeably high-powered. Choreographer Danny Daniels puts the men through their clog-shoed paces like a platoon of educated centipedes, and the girls swing their crinolines with a Londonderrière—all to a score that’s more sugar than spice. Robert Randolph’s sets lead a life of their own, rolling about, folding and unfolding, and even upstaging the actors. More sentimental than sophisticated, more innocent than knowing, Walking Happy is no slam-bang Broadway musical, but it whiles away an evening without wasting it.

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