note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
Although the Arsenal Center for the Arts’ Black Box theater is small, F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company has some big voices and personalities in its ambitious production of “The Glorious Ones,” currently making its Boston premiere, through May 7.
Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ 90-minute, one-act musical based on Francine Prose’s novel, highlighting commedia dell’ arte, opened to rave reviews in 2007 at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, but is also entertaining in this small venue, where the cast hams it up, downplays, and takes extra bows, as in the days of yore. F.U.D.G.E. director/choreographer Joe DeMita adds historic, artistic flair here, preserving the intent of the the street performances of 16th-18th century Europe. Like the stage he designed, on which this vagabond troupe had performed in cities and villages --- a slightly raised, wooden platform --- the cast performs valiantly, without props, using signature masks to designate characters during their routines. Lindsay Hurley and AnneMarie Alvarez’s costumes add dash here.
Thanks to DeMita, who also mans the lighting, large background panels change hue to signify change of mood or hour.
Each character introduces him/herself through monologue and song. They relate how they became a traveling troupe in Italy that gained fame, attracting the attention of the French king, who invites them to give a command performance. Unfortunately, the king thinks the group is too banal, irreverent, and orders them out of the country, under threat of death.
Accompanied by Music Director Megan Bergeron on keyboard and her talented, four musicians, Curt Fennell is commanding, his voice rich, as troupe originator, Flaminio Scala. Unfortunately, Flaminio can’t accept change or eventually stepping aside to young Francesco, (Rich Hoehn), who was suicidal when Flaminio found him. The elder actor, welcomed him into the troupe and converted Francesco’s suicidal attempts into comedic routines, turning around the young man’s life. “It’s all about the timing,” Flaminio instructs.
Leslie Comperchio as sensual former prostitute and Flaminio’s lover, Columbina, delivers a powerful performance, especially when she’s replaced as the troupe’s “innamorata,” (the sexy, leading female role), by sweet newcomer and Francesco’s love, Isabella (Stephanie Schapero). Young Isabella, an aspiring writer, changes the script and gains newfound fame for the troupe.
Petite, spritely Joelle Kross is delightful in every scene as Armanda, who left the convent to play mascot roles, and is hopelessly infatuated with Flaminio. To preserve his existence, she gathers bits and pieces from him in her sack.
Rounding out the cast is Mike Fay, as Pantalone the tailor, who’s infatuated with the fiery Columbina, and Adam Gray as Dottore, the troupe’s “doctor”.
With several outstanding numbers, scenes, romantic sub-plots and older stars’ reluctance to change with the times, “The Glorious Ones,” is an enriching, entertaining way to spend an evening.
BOX INFO: One-act, 90 minute musical presented by F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company through May 7 at the Arsenal Center for the Art, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown. Performances are Friday, Saturday, and Thursday, May 5, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. May 5, pay-what-you-can. Call 781-956-1301 or visit www.FudgeTheatre.com.