The Rink, a musical with a book by Terrence McNally and songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb about the relationship between a mother and daughter, was perceived as a vehicle for Liza Minnelli, who played Angel, the daughter, when it opened on Broadway on February 9, 1984, even though Chita Rivera, who played Anna, the mother, won the Tony Award for her performance, and it ran only as long as Minnelli was willing to stay in it, which turned out to be a mere 204 performances, far short of financial success. Four years later, on February 17, 1988, it finally got a London production, with Diane Langton as Angel and Josephine Blake as Anna, and was again a commercial failure. But the British version and subsequent European stagings at least demonstrated that this was a seriously intended look at intergenerational conflict between people of the World War II era and their baby-boomer progeny. Anna and Angel, in frequent flashbacks, undergo most of the challenges facing those generations in the '50s, '60s and '70s, and while the authors' sympathies are clearly with the mother (particularly in Ebb's lyrics to "Chief Cook & Bottle Washer" and "Don't 'Ah Ma' Me"), nevertheless the daughter's failings ultimately are blamed on circumstances beyond her control. Kander's music, as usual, is primarily located in '20s and '30s jazz styles, which doesn't really work with the material. (His feelings about contemporary music are revealed by the ugly blast of guitar rock that invades "What Happened to the Old Days?") But there are several good Kander & Ebb songs that became available for Minnelli's nightclub act. Langton has solved the problem of performing them by simply doing a Minnelli imitation; Blake makes a more distinct impression as Anna, which is really the meatier role.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|The Rink, musical play|