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Ambitious describes the leading male characters at odds in A LEGENDARY ROMANCE at the Williamstown Theater Festival, and also the dramatic vision of this new musical. Former Hollywood hotshot producer Joseph Lindy (played by Jeff McCarthy), down-and-out in his retired years, wrestles with approving a new version of his uncompleted masterpiece. Looking back at his glory days, he recalls his love affair with the ingénue he discovered, Billie Hathaway (Lara Lee Gayer), and, how threatened by the McCarthy witch hunts, he was double-crossed, both professionally and personally, by cutthroat actor Vincent Connor (Roe Hartrampf).

Timothy Prager’s book covers a lot of ground that shifts back and forth from the present day to the early 50s. Director Lonny Price is perfectly suited to this material: he’s no stranger to behind the scenes Hollywood melodramas in musical form from his early days as an actor in the original cast of Sondheim’s MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG to most recently as director of the revival of SUNSET BOULEVARD. He comprehensively moves characters in and out of present and past in Prager’s busy, to-and-fro book.

Geoff Morrow, who wrote lyrics and music, has an impressive pop-song portfolio, but many of the fourteen numbers, especially those for McCarthy and Hartrampf, have a generic, sung-through sameness, rather than melodic hooks one expects. The charming Lara Lee Gayer, who is Kristin Chenoweth-like in appearance and voice, gets the best numbers - the witty, nifty tune “You're Just As I Remember You” in Act 1 and a haunting torch song “You Didn’t Call, You Didn’t Write” in Act 2.

Hartrampf seems miscast: his Vincent doesn’t summon the seductive power to sucker-in both Joseph and Billie. Jeff McCarthy, once again, demonstrates he’s one of the most versatile actors on stage today (Fagan in Arena Stage’s OLIVER re-do, drug-lord villain in BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER, Quixote in MAN OF LA MANCHA, 60’s radical attorney KUNSTLER, struggling trans in SOUTHERN COMFORT, and deranged SWEENEY - all at Barrington Stage in recent years. McCarthy does some heavy lifting in LEGENDARY ROMANCE. Lucky for the creative team (and producers) his shoulders are broad enough to carry the show.

The fixed set of an all-purpose Hollywood mansion, studio salon and screening room by James Noone is stunning, and allows for big-screen projection of Lindy’s old movies. The 1950’s-style costumes for Ms Gayer by Tracy Christensen recall Edith Head’s heyday. The all-white, one-piece bathing suit with matching pool shawl and sun hat is the cat's pajamas.

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