The raid of Minsky's Burlesque house on New York's Lower East Side in 1925 initiated when dancer Mary Dawson of Pennsylvania removed her top and then allowed her bare breasts to sway was the basis of William Friedkin's 1968 movie, The Night They Raided Minsky's. Turns out, the whole thing was a publicity stunt by club owner Billy Minsky in order to draw better crowds to his club, which presented a genre of entertainment that was on the ropes at the time wedged between moribund vaudeville and burgeoning Broadway. From a business standpoint, it was pretty good stunt, one that propelled a whole new audience to the club. Bob Martin, Charles Strouse and Susan Birkenhead's new musical, Minsky's, at the Ahmanson (original book by Evan Hunter) bears as little resemblance to the film (it makes no claim to be an adaptation) as it does to the historical record. The time has been flung forward a decade from the Roaring '20s to Depression-Era '30s, presumably to ramp up its relevance to our own hard times, which are echoed in lyrics sung by chorus girls: "Everyone wants an escape now/The country's in terrible shape now/Every time another bank fails/We go and polish our nails." This is the story of Minsky (Christopher Fitzgerald), and his love-hate affair with the daughter (Katharine Leonard) of the prim city councilman (George Wendt), who's on a morality crusade to shut down all the burlesque houses in town. Minsky's is a clever, romantic musical that ambles along in no particular direction on the power of its charm, until it tries to fool us into believing that its pedestrian ambitions contain some higher purpose. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 1. (213) 628-2772
Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Starts: Feb. 6. Continues through March 1, 2009
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