note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi
Arpad Laszlo … Mark Nimar
Ladislav Sipos … Craig Howard
Ilona Ritter … Carly Evans
Steven Kodaly … Tom Lawrence
Georg Nowack … Douglas Hodge
Mr. Maraczek … Rick Woods
Amalia Balash … Sarah Consentino
Mr. Keller … Ryan DuBray
Busboy … Russell Peck
Waiter … Brian Toney
Emma Boroson; Ryan DuBray; Kristin Fehlau; Brian Toney
Sandy Armstrong; Eric Hanselman; Nectaria Kordan;
Bobbi Laird; John Lynch; Ben Rackl
Conductor … Art Finstein
Strings … John Emery; Jane Ezbicki; Peter Hughes;
Brian Ott; Robin Ryczek; Jerry Weene
Winds … Laura Finklestein; Peter Norman; Elana Swardlick
Keyboards … Joshua Finstein; Christopher Roppola
Percussion … Aaron Rosenthal; Alan Yost
One’s first acquaintance with a theatre company is all the sweeter when its introductory production works like a charm, as was my evening with the Concord Players' SHE LOVES ME. This beloved American musical with a Continental flavor is set in a Hungarian perfumery in the 1930s and centers on Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash, who bicker constantly but who also, unknowingly, write love letters to each other via a penpal club (if the theme sounds familiar, there are three film versions of the original play). Thanks to computer dating services and the introspective musicals of the Sondheim school, SHE LOVES ME, which preceded COMPANY and FOLLIES, strikes the ear with a familiar but honeyed sound, blended with violins, and how good to see everyone, down to the last shop customer, being given something to do; the results become padded, at times, but few New Musical can boast such two , if not three-, dimensional characters.
SHE LOVES ME fits delightfully upon the Concord stage, with the sets designed in proportion to its actors rather than its proscenium, and Corey Jackson and Jennifer Condon have staged it all cleverly, cozily, with everyone a hair’s breadth away from a waltz or a tango. Like the perfumery’s tables, stocked with temptations, the Concord ensemble is one inspired turn after another, led by Douglas Hodge’s Georg and Sarah Consentino’s Amalia, from two contrasting walks of 1930s aesthetics: Mr. Hodge is a genial man-next-door type; a modest swain whom women turn to when tired of bad boys (Mr. Hodge’s surprise and delight in his Fosse-like movements during the title song matches our own), and Ms. Consentino’s silvery tones have fluttered in from a Kern operetta (the closing bars of “Ice Cream” are given an amusing Wagnerian spin); thrice, now, have I seen Ms. Consentino, onstage, and each ensemble has caught the proverbial lightning in a bottle --- if she is not a rabbit’s foot, then who is? The supporting cast is all the more engaging thanks to Mr. Jackson having them subtly go against their characters’ grains: thus, Tom Lawrence’s cad is dry as powder rather than slick as brilliantine; Carly Evans’ heartiness keeps her love-victim healthy and neurosis-free; Craig Howard wisely downplays his plum-role of confidante which, in turn, makes him steal scenes all the more; Rick Woods’ dapper cuckold is the handsomest fellow, onstage --- the character’s offstage wife must be a fool, indeed, to have wandered elsewhere; and whatever crumbs Mr. Howard leaves behind, Brian Toney and Russell Peck snatch up as the snooty waiter and bumbling busboy in the rendezvous-café; Mark Nimar throws heart and soul into his delivery boy but falls into the clichéd bleat of simulated adolescence. The choruses sing and cavort admirably in their complex set-pieces.
What a heavenly introduction! The Concord’s upcoming season includes THE ODD COUPLE, THE LION IN WINTER and WEST SIDE STORY. I wish them, well, and pray you can acquire tickets to its current confection which is dissolving, soon.
note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi
King Ludwig of Bavaria … Brian Quint
James Avery … Jon Ferreira
Margaret Mortimer; Queen Marie; Princess Mary;
Princess Enid; Natalie Kippelbaum … Maureen Adduci
Henry Lee Stafford; Helmut; Opera Singer … Christopher Michael Brophy
Sally Mortimer; Princess Sophie; Princess Patricia;
Marie Antoinette; Annie Avery … Elisa MacDonald
Footman; Otto; Pfeiffer; Princess Ursula the Unusual;
Reverend Howesberry; Sergeant … Rick Park
Paul Rudnick’s VALHALLA, at the Zeitgeist, is dazzling comedy even when the rhinestones outnumber the diamonds. Two worlds compete for your attention: the court of King Ludwig of Bavaria (19th century), who sees Life as his own Wagnerian opera, and the closeted Texas of James Avery (20th century), who lusts for straight-arrow Henry Lee Stafford --- these worlds kinda-sorta blend, eventually; before then, you may wonder what the back-and-forth is all about apart from concluding that it takes a gay man (Ludwig) to make the world an exquisite one and another gay man (James) to appreciate the effort (each begins by mooning over his respective swan). Still, Mr. Rudick does keep you chuckling, throughout --- his humor lies in the throwaway or afterthought than in the heart of things --- so you shouldn’t be too, too disappointed at journey’s end.
The Zeitgeist has come a long way since the days when its casts outnumbered its audiences; it continues to offer quirky/edgy fare but David J. Miller (assisted, here, by Rick Park) is now an actor’s director, as well, and many a familiar face can now be found in his productions; VALHALLA particularly benefits from playing so intimately in the round than from a proscenium’s distance (the characters remain cartoons but are now three-dimensional ones). There is an olive’s tang about Brian Quint as an actor; thus, he is a welcome accent in ensembles --- the role of Ludwig allows him to take center stage and Mr. Quint’s monarch is a study of curdled innocence, his face ever in a pout, and he can slip in and out of madness without dissolving Mr. Rudnick’s wit. Jon Ferreira is an astonishing James Avery --- astonishing by being embedded in the character’s period: the pagan grin, the pompadour, the whiff of outlaw-sex; a rebel with a one-man crusade to live and love openly in pre-Stonewall days. But even the most polished table top stands or wobbles on its legs, and the Messrs. Quint and Ferreira are supported by a quartet of scene-stealers: Maureen Adduci gives her matrons a warped dignity so that they do not collapse into mere gorgons; Elisa MacDonald, an alluring comedienne, makes being a humpback a kind of fashion statement; Christopher Michael Brophy plays yet another stud whose closet door is rattled but who else besides Mr. Brophy can lend such plausibility, not to mention physique, to his fantasy figure (fantasy in the sense that if a gay man is persistent, his straight buddy will eventually see the light)? Best of all is Rick Park, one of Boston’s treasures: Mr. Park is so rich a comic actor that he needn’t empty his bag of tricks into your lap but, instead, selects random bits and still doubles you up with laughter. Here, for example, he licks a rubber ball once, not twice or thrice in a row, flutters daintily behind a fan while in full drag, plops a dropped toupee back on his head and nonchalantly tucks a stray lock behind his ear, and so on. In short, Mr. Park personifies Less is More.
Seth Bodie’s costumes and Rachel Padula’s wigs are eye-popping, especially when they must be whipped on and off in seconds --- this is the lushest Zeitgeist production, yet, and on the afternoon I attended the Black Box was packed and its audience, most appreciative. Mr. Miller may not realize it, but the Zeitgeist is in danger of becoming Popular.