Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Grand Night for Singing"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"The Last Supper"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Last Supper, a musical enactment is the story of Leonardo da Vinci's struggle to complete his famous mural is performed at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Newport. The music and vocal arrangements are by Gary William Friedman with the book and lyrics by Thomas Mitz and is based on an original concept by Andy Krey. The show is set in the dining Hall of the monastery Santa Maria Delle Grazie, Italy from 1495-97 and in the imagination of Leonardo da Vinci. Actors portray Leonardo, Jesus, the twelve Apostles, an Angel and two women, while singers express the meaning and emotion of the action through song. Leonardo has been commissioned to create a mural of The Last Supper, his first attempt at painting in ten years. He fears he has lost his artistic vision by squandering his gifts. An angel/muse inspires him to invoke the Apostles and ultimately the Last Supper. As each Apostle comes to life and tells his story, the story is the reflected through music in an uplifting contemporary pop-gospel score. By discovering what each individual was thinking and feeling at the moment of crisis, Leonardo confronts his own betrayal and learns that through love and faith he can rediscover the vision of divine inspiration and the purpose of life. The show is a cleverly constructed with alternating scenes of music and dialogue.The emotion packed show is excellently portrayed with performers of all ages in these roles.The sold out crowd leapt to its feet at the close of the show as the actors struck the famous tableau of the painting. The show is dedicated to the memory of Pamela Lancaster who was tragically killed in a plane crash in Middletown last July 3.

Directed by John Moreau who also produced it with Terry Moreau. He chose wonderful performers and molded them in their performances.Veteran actor Ralph Stokes plays the huge role of Leonardo excellently, delivering a long monologue about his painter's block for the past ten years. He can't find a vision for this work so he uses his imagination when he is inspired by a singing angel/muse who takes him back to the actual Last Supper to see what life was all about back then. He sits and watches as the Apostles enter the scene while the choir sings the beautiful score. Ralph really delves into his character giving it many levels to show his inner turmoil. The twelve apostles are played beautifully by Leon Case (Matthew, the tax collector), Matt Davis (Thaddeus, the physician),Mark Hill (Simon, the soldier), John Loughlin (Philip, lifelong friend of Bartholomew), Dave Wieselquist (Bartholomew) Richard Moore(Peter, the loudmouth)* his wife, Lynda made all the authentic colorful costumes for the show),John Moreau (Andrew, a fisherman & Peter's brother)Frank Siniscalchi (Little James who feels his is not worthy and has a wonderful crying scene) Walter Smothers (Thomas, the scholar) the biggest scene stealer, 11 year old Matthew Vergun(John, the youngest Apostle who tells the bossy Martha off in an hilarious scene) ,Paul Vergun( James, the elder is John's brother and is played by his real life father) and Kelly Williamson ( Judas, the betrayer who makes his role come alive with his sarcastic and caustic portrayal). The charismatic and ethereal Mark Rees plays Jesus perfectly, causing the audience to gasp at his Christ-like appearance. Wanda Silvia is Mary Magdalene and Lynn Swanson is Martha who complains about keeping house for all the men, eliciting many laughs especially when she threatens them with her broom. The stories are vignettes between the emotionally draining songs and they explain how each Apostle came to be followers of Jesus.

Frances Elayne Johnson is the music director and pianist for the show. Patrice McKinley plays the Angel (with Elisabeth Vergun at alternate shows) and her glorious voice sells all her songs to the crowd especially "Visions" where she tells Leonardo to trust in God for his talents, "All I Can Do is Love You" where she sings you are the world I live in and "Didn't You Know" where she explains how wonderful the words he exclaimed are!".Other songs are "Stand Like a Rock", "God Has a Plan for Me", "How Deep is Your Gaze? the rocking gospel number "How Beautiful Upon the Mountain" sung by Jimmy Winters and "If It Were Easy?". The 75 minute show ends with where is the love that has left us and the audience learns that it is with Jesus. Bravo to the 13 member choir, too.The Angry Prior in the show is well played by the Church's Rector, William Bogholltz.The wonderful before the show dinner of Chicken or fish, mashed potatoes, vegetable, salad and numerous desserts are by Wilma Lyons and the ladies from St. Peter's. So for a sensational way to celebrate the Lenten season, be sure to catch "The Last Supper". I am sure it will become a yearly tradition in Newport as it well should!

"The Last Supper" (13 - 29 March)
ST. PETER'S LUTHERAN CHURCH
525 Broadway, NEWPORT RI
1(401)835-8200

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