note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco
Ocean State Theater’s holiday treat is “Meet Me in St. Louis” based on the 1944 movie and it is indeed a treat full of nostalgia, vintage Americana and simple good feelings in abundance. It is a purely fun show, a musical delight that evokes fond memories of bygone days. thing, but got some of the biggest laughs of the night.“Meet Me in St. Louis” is based on the 1944 film with Judy Garland and made it to Broadway in this version in the late 1980s. This show has spirit even with some flaws and is well worth seeing. It was the second-highest grossing picture of the year, only behind “Going My Way.”
It tells the tale of the Smith family in St. Louis with the 1904 World’s Fair soon toe arrive and it will be the Smith’s last Christmas in St. Louis before moving to New York for papa to pursue a promotion and a better career, despite the family’s reluctance at leaving the familiar far behind.
Recent RIC grad Sarah Pothier is daughter Esther, the role played by Judy Garland in the movie and she has an excellent voice, full of energy and poise. She delivers a wining version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and in her trio with sisters Rose and Tootie a delightful “under the Bamboo Tree.” Her acting is full of finesse and sincerity.
Joshua Stenseth is Esther’s love interest the charming and dashing next door neighbor. He is engaging enough in the role, managing to deliver a sensitive portrayal, but his singing is a bit weak.
Bobbie Celine Doherty is little sister Tootie, a bundle of energy and feisty. Doherty is sheer delight in the role, and she gets some of the biggest laughs.
Hannah Spacone is sister Rose who is flighty a bit self absorbed and blind to al the world’s feelings but her own. Spacone gives a engaging performance as this young woman.
There is also brother Lon, played by Michael Luongo who turns out to be an exceptional dancer as well showing off his stuff in the square dance number and the delightful and winning “The Banjo” number.
Lily McMahon is sister Agnes, who is Tootie’s partner ins crime at all times. She is a fun foil for Tootie, full of zest and sincerity.
Rebecca Barko is their mother, Mrs. Anna Smith, the ever dependable, loving matriarch of the family. She shines in “You’ll Hear a Bell.” She and her husband stand out in “Wasn’t It Fun.”
Ronald L. Brown is her husband Alonzo, a bit cranky and more than a bit ambitious wanting to get a promotion at work, one which takes him and his family to New York, despite their protests. He was a terrific baritone voice which shines in “A Day in New York.”
Mark S. Pothier is Grandpa, a warm caring man who loves his grandchildren and has a good rapport with them. Pothier shows a winning side as Grandpa, although his singing voice is somewhat lacking.
Stacey Geer is Katie the Irish maid. She is full of energy and a distinct presence. She is an excellent singer who knows how to sell a song as she does in her trio withMr. And Mrs. Smith, “A Touch of the Irish.”
Director and choreographer Gary John La Rosa makes some of the acting stylized which sometimes strikes a false note. His choreography however is impressive, from the stunning square dance done to “Skip to My Lou” with its cartwheels and flips galore. Or the rollicking “The Trolley Song” with its vibrant energy.
Musical director Esther Zabinski is right on the mark with the orchestra, provding a rich musical accompaniment throughout.
The sets by Charles Murdock Lucas are lovely and loaded with nostalgic touches of Americana. The proscenium mimics the old proscenium arches of turn of the 20th century theaters with its carvings. Behind three panels in an old fashioned drawing style shows houses and it all opens on to the Smith family house filled with vivid detailed touches like vintage photographs, and a grand staircase.
The Brian Horton turn of the century costumes are elegant and impressive both in style and number.
The production has many jobs overall and ends up a special holiday treat well worth seeing and bound to strike a familiar and fond note.
“Meet Me in St. Louis” runs through Dec. 28 at Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick. Tickets are $39-$54. Call (401) 921-6800, or visit oceanstatetheatre.org.