That Fanny; she never did care much for conventional behavior.
by Neil Genzlinger
February 22, 2006
The conventional behavior in theater these days is to take family-friendly source material — “Sesame Street,” say, or the Peanuts comic strip — and turn it into a moderately bawdy show for grown-ups (“Avenue Q” and “Dog Sees God,” respectively). But Fanny Hill, whose adventures in whoredom made John Cleland’s 1749 novel about her scandalous in three centuries, goes in the other direction by allowing herself to be adapted into a musical. Ed Dixon’s “Fanny Hill,” which has taken up residence at the York Theater at St. Peter’s, is about as family friendly as a show full of phallic jokes can be.
And if you set your expectations properly going in, that can make an enjoyable enough couple of hours, because Mr. Dixon, responsible for book, music and lyrics, has a playful sense of humor. He has Charles (Tony Yazbeck), Fanny’s eventual true love, deliver an entire song while being mugged. He breaks and then patches up the fourth wall with abandon.
Nancy Anderson makes a good impression as Fanny, even managing, in the midst of a show played almost entirely for comedy, to wrench poignancy out of “Honor Lost,” a lovely second-act ballad. That number is among three in quick succession that make you glad you came back for Act II… the other two winners are “My Only Love,” a duet for Fanny and Charles, and “Every Man in London,” a designed show-stopper for Patti Allison.