(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/29.)
Unless you happen to be a marine biologist, “Pipe Dream” is probably not your favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. This little-cherished 1955 show, based on John Steinbeck novels and set among the bottom feeders of Cannery Row in Monterey, Calif., had a troubled gestation — Richard Rodgers underwent surgery for cancer just as it went into rehearsals — and it played just seven months on Broadway after a cool reception from the critics.
The central romance, between a starfish-studying biologist and a drifter who resides at the local brothel without exactly earning her keep there, was not in the wholesome sweet spot for Rodgers and Hammerstein, and their ambivalence about the material may have had something to do with its ultimate failure. But as the endearing, wonderfully sung City Center Encores! production firmly proves, even second-tier Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals have their undisputable charms.