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In musical `Mail' correspondents come noisily to life

Mail Musical with book and lyrics by Jerry Colker, music by Michael Rupert. Directed by Andrew Cadiff. Starring Mr. Rupert. Alex (Michael Rupert), the personable hero of ``Mail,'' is a 29-year-old writer with five unpublished satirical autobiographical novels to his credit. When he ``hits the ground running'' to escape a premature midlife crisis, Alex leaves no forwarding address. Returning to his Manhattan pad after a four-month absence (and a few minutes' playing time), he encounters several bundles of accumulated mail. As he peruses the letters, assorted correspondents come noisily to life.

Librettist-lyricist Jerry Colker and composer Rupert employ the device for all it's worth and more in the farcical musical fantasy at the Music Box. Materializing out of the windows, walls, floor, and concealed entries are Alex's girl, Dana (Mara Getz), and a train of variously frustrated friends, associates, and miscellaneous intruders. Principal among them are longtime pal and partner Franklin (Brian Mitchell), voracious agent Sandi (Antonia Ellis), and father Max (Robert Mandan), whose life Alex describes as ``a blue-collar Ayn Rand novel.'' Others engaged in the songs, dances, and satirical sketches include a trio of Life magazine executives, Con Edison hard hats, rent collectors, members of Alex's high school class, and a ``millionaire'' sweepstakes pitch.

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The score of more than 30 songs runs a gamut of musical styles: ragtime, jazz, hard and soft rock, country and western, and what is presumably an hommage to Stephen Sondheim. Having explored the possibilities of their gimmick in Act I, Colker and Rupert exhaust it in Act II. Even with Gerry Hariton and Vicki Baral's extravagant scenic embellishments and sight gags, ``Mail'' begins to pall before Alex finds his integrity and reunites with the patient Dana.

The versatile cast copes nimbly with a postal sack of roles and with Grover Dale's animated choreography. ``Mail,'' which comes to Broadway via Pasadena and Washington, was staged by Andrew Cadiff, lighted by Richard Nelson, and costumed by William Ivey Long. Tom Fay is the music director. The show is the latest collaboration of Colker and Rupert, whose ``3 Guys Naked From the Waist Down'' was a 1985 Off Broadway hit.

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