The Walpole Footlighters first show of their 83rd season which is their 235th production is Joe DiPietro's tender, loving and comedic look at an Italian-American family, "Over the River and Through the Woods". Nick Cristanio is a 29 year old Italian at the crossroads of his life. For his entire life, Nick and his four grandparents have gathered for the traditional Sunday night family dinner. This tradition is about to change when Nick breaks the news that he is leaving New Jersey for a job promotion in Seattle. Bent on keeping their grandson around so he can marry and have children, the four grandparents hatch a plot to keep him in town. Hilarity is the name of the game during the first act with many poignant and touching moments in the second act where Nick finally learns the true meaning of being part of a loving family with the Italian mantra of "Tengo Famiglia", to hold a family. Director Joe Mercure does a fabulous job as a first time director of this show, with his expert combination of comic and dramatic moments and his fantastic six member cast who obtain the laughter and the tears from the audience. This well written and directed show is a must see show for this fall season to warm your hearts.
Joe not only cast his show very well but blocks it wonderfully, too. He mixes the old country values with the current day trends perfectly. The gorgeous living room and dining room set is by Dan Sheehan while the numerous costumes are designed by Kate Smith. The lighting design is an important part of this show when the characters have their soliloquies and to set the mood for the tear jerking moments is by Derek Jones, a senior at Xaverian High School who has been working with Footlighters since fifth grade. Andrew Bradley, a recent graduate of UMASS, Boston, plays the pivotal role of Nick. He does an excellent job in this enormous role. Andrew creates a character that the audience can immediately identify with in his relationship with his grandparents. His exasperation at his meddling grandparents is mixed with his deep feeling and love for his family. Andrew handles the dialogue and especially his many monologues with ease.
The four grandparents in this show are marvelous in their roles whether they are making you laugh hysterically or making you sob uncontrollably. They show great depth in their roles to get the true meaning of what a family is all about. Each of them have their moments to shine in their individual and group scenes. These topnotch performers are Bob Maibor as Frank Gianelli, Evie Rayburg as Aida Gianelli, Paul Campbell as Nunzio Cristanio and Christine Grudinskas as Emma Cristanio. Bob tells the serious story about his father, plays the mandolin and is a terrible driver while Evie cooks up these fabulous Italian meals and wants to feed everyone constantly. Paul tells funny stories about courting Emma and sings "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" but keeps a serious health problem a secret while Christine plays the religious Mass card buying grandmother who likes to go on bus trips and fix Nick up with her Canasta card playing partner's daughter to try to keep him from moving to Seattle. Their many comic and dramatic antics have to be seen to be enjoyed so I won't spoil any of them for the audience. Rounding out the cast is Katie Curley as Caitlin O'Hare who Emma tries to fix up with Nick. She makes the most of her stage time and has a funny bit where she calls Nick an asshole for yelling at his grandparents while she explains later that he should respect and cherish them while he still has them. So for one of the best directed and best acted shows around, be sure to catch, "Over the River and Through the Woods" for a pleasant and poignant trip down memory lane.Tell them Tony sent you.