note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Roger Bentley
Ok, so I couldn't afford tickets to see the Sox -Yankees love fest this weekend at Fenway Park. But there was, and is, an alternative going on at Theatre To Go in Stoneham in the form of the musical THE CURSE OF THE BAMBINO. Their performing space is in the basement of Saint James United Methodist Church 50 Central Street, Stoneham, MA.
. I wasn't quite sure what was in store for me as I had never heard of this show. So, I did some research on-line and come to find out, it was written by a couple of Boston area residents David Kruh and Steven Bergman (whose wife is the wonderful local actress Maryann Zschau) and was performed at the Lyric Stage in Boston previously to packed houses. This was the first venture for their show into a community theatre venue so I made the trek to Stoneham and have to say, it was worth every penny of admission.
. Director Chip Sheeran and his wife, choreographer Elizabeth along with music director David Sprinkle took a cast of 9 people and have created a truly enchanting production of BAMBINO. (Side Note: Hmmm, nine players on a baseball field too….coincidence…) . The only thing that I felt was worth improving was the set changes which at some times lengthy, but this is a small venue, which could explain this issue. The sets worked perfectly, simple, suggestive and not overdone….just enough to work.
. My first compliment goes to the Rooters (Cam Cronin, Matt Evangelista, Rob MacRobbie & Tim Vincent) ,who are on stage just about the entire show, playing multiple characters and entertaining the audiences with vocal interludes which spanned the music spectrum from 1930's style boogie-woogie (RED SOX BOOGIE) to a sixties number with tie dye and fringe to match to the silk shirts and platform shoes disco-era. One of the stand-out performances was in THE BASEBALL MANIFESTO featuring Evangelista, whom this writer thought was in his 30's but turns out he is merely 18 years old and should be someone to watch for in the future. The Rooters had some very difficult music and choreography to handle but they did with gusto and enthusiasm. Bravo!
. What would the story of the Bambino and the curse be without Babe Ruth and his nemesis, Harry Frazee? This was not a match made in heaven and the actors playing the roles rose to the occasion of creating two memorable performances in the show. Harry Frazee was played by local actor Alex Lucchesi. Lucchesi's interpretation of Frazee showed the audience a very manipulative person with one goal and one alone….the big almighty dollar. It totally worked for me and this guy has a natural talent for comedy not to mention an incredible singing voice as evidenced in both his numbers, SHOWBIZ and BASEBALL MAN. He was meant for this role.
. Then we have the Babe himself portrayed by actor Timothy Fitzgerald, making his debut at THEATRE TO GO, but definitely no amateur to the craft. From his first entrance to his final exit, Fitzgerald gave us an unforgettable performance playing Babe as a multi-dimensional characterization rather than what could have been a one-note role. His number HOME RUN KING displayed his vocal versatility with music that was not main stream but handled like a pro. One of my favorite numbers came at the end of Act I, where Frazee was having a nightmare with Babe prominently figured… between the choreography, the vocals and the acting, it was a hoot. I don't want to give too much away but it was hysterical.
. And keeping up with the great performances, we have the show's love interest. Playing the role of Steve Waterman and The Father was Chaz Kircher and Melissa Penney was Betty Danvers. Again, keeping in line with everything else in the show, they did an outstanding job on both sides of the coin from acting to singing. And in the dual role of McGreevey/Ruppert was Mike Margolis, who did a very credible job of creating two completely different characters one of which was an Irish bartender, complete with the accent.
. I want to know where the group found all this amazing talent ALWAYS NEXT YEAR sung by Kircher, was one of those songs I went humming from the theatre along with Babe's HOME RUN KING
. The show still has another weekend to go with performances on Friday October 1 and Saturday October 2. So root for the home team, have a Fenway Frank (really, they sell them!!!!), some popcorn and go see BAMBINO. Maybe it'll break the curse.