BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
The clever makers of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," writer Jeffrey Lane and composer-lyricist David Yazbek, now serve Broadway audiences a saucy, splashy and mighty tasty musical comedy distilled from Pedro Almodovar's movie "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown."
True enough, seekers of higher forms of musical theater may not be thrilled by the silly doings going down at the splendidly-restored Belasco Theatre, where the same-named show opened Thursday.
But customers who want their musicals merely to be gorgeous and tuneful will be thoroughly entertained by "Women," especially as embodied by such bona-fide Broadway divas as Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Sherie Rene Scott, all gracing the show in excellent voice and comical form.Set in 1980s Madrid, the screwball story spins around three women mad (in one way or another) about a caddish gentleman, suavely incarnated by Brian Stokes Mitchell. The crazy complications and assorted other characters that follow are many and will not be described here except to note that Lane's swift script and Yazbek's propulsive score deal with them all breezily — if not deeply or entirely coherently.
Who cares? Fun's fun and as festively staged by director Bartlett Sher, "Women" is a giddy, glamorous musical party not to be missed.
Stunning moving visuals of Madrid richly drenched in color, sexy costumes and sinuous choreography constantly seduce the eye. Yazbek's supple and exuberant Latin score — sambas, mambos, tangos, bossa novas — offers frequently intoxicating music, glisteningly orchestrated and featuring several melodies that linger long on the ear.
The agitated title number — caroled by the leading women as they literally dangle from the end of their ropes as the first act closes — a feverish "Lovesick" and a passing romantic fancy titled "My Crazy Heart" sound especially winning on a single hearing, but Yazbek's music and lyrics gleam with many fetching graces even as they drive the story.
Memorable performances guarantee a terrific time. A blond bundle of friendly energy as a cheery cab driver, Danny Burstein endears himself to the audience with a bouncy welcome to his city. Batty in outré outfits as a discarded wife, LuPone wittily waxes ultra-dramatic as a woman scorned who rather enjoys her woes. Whether mixing up a questionable batch of gazpacho or setting a bed on fire in her misery, Scott infuses her truly wounded yet resilient character with plaintive loveliness. Mitchell coolly exploits his burnished baritone voice and lady killer aura to comic or romantic effect.
All wide-eyed and lovely idiocy as a clueless fashion model panicked by a new boyfriend she discovers to be a terrorist, Benanti is blessed with some of the funniest material and often skitters off with the show hilariously, chalking up another Broadway triumph for the Tony-winning native of Kinnelon, New Jersey.
A yummy confection of silly romantic comedy, seductive Latin music, alluring visuals and high-powered performances, "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is a musical comedy certain to amuse anyone craving frivolous, tuneful entertainment on Broadway.
"Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" continues through Jan. 23 at the Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St., New York. Call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.lct.org.