SF Playhouse takes swing at ‘Promises, Promises’ 

Two costars in San Francisco Playhouse’s upcoming production of “Promises, Promises” have interesting theories about why the Burt Bacharach-Hal David musical based on the 1960 Oscar-winning film “The Apartment” isn’t staged more often in the Bay Area.

Monique Hafen, who plays Fran, the woman in the show’s love triangle, says, “I don’t know. It’s a really great show. The book is by Neil Simon. He gives you everything you need. It’s right there on the page.”

But Johnny Moreno, who portrays a top executive at the company where Fran works, says, “The subject matter is tricky. There’s a lot cheating happening _ not the most comfortable” thing for people to watch.

But in the hands of SF Playhouse co-founder Bill English, whose deft, innovative directing zeroes in on the humanity in a script, Moreno says, “We go deeper into the characters, we go into why they are cheating.” He adds, for emphasis, “This is a Christmas show.”

Hafen and Moreno, appearing together for the third time on the SF Playhouse stage after big hits with “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot,” are enjoying the fun “Mad Men”-era sets and costumes, as well as singing the stylized Bacharach-David score (and Bacharach’s only contribution to Broadway).

“Hopefully, we’re doing it like Burt Bacharach would,” says Hafen, noting that the Playhouse production’s music is being developed to sound as if it were in a recording studio, complete with a great ensemble of backup vocalists.

Pointing to costar Jeffrey Brian Adams, who plays the lead, Chuck, a junior executive who supplies his apartment for trysts, Moreno says he handles the music really well, and thinks the show’s creators would be pleased to hear how he makes their songs tell a story.

Dancing plays a huge, role, too – the biggest yet for a production by SF Playhouse, which is known for adding interesting twists and new perspectives to all of its shows.

Calling “Promises, Promises,” “our first dance musical,” Hafen has a quick response when asked about her dream role. She says it would be in an SF Playhouse version of “The Last Five Years,” an Off-Broadway musical about a relationship in which the man and woman each tell their version of what happens in song – the woman going backward in time, and the man going forward.

IF YOU GO

Promises, Promises

Presented by San Francisco Playhouse

Where: Kensington Park Hotel, 450 Post St., S.F.

When: Opens in previews Tuesday, runs most Tuesdays-Sundays; closes Jan. 10

Tickets: $20-$120

Contact: (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org

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Leslie Katz

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