The Walpole Footlighters 230th production of their 81st season is Rodgers and Hart's classic 1940 musical, "Pal Joey". The show takes place in Chicago and tells the tale of Joey Evans, a charming schemer who will do anything to get ahead in the world of entertainment. His magnetic attraction and good looks lure an innocent girl who falls for him, a society matron who "keeps" him and a club dancer who tries to blackmail him with her shady partner posing as a press agent. Joey loves to tell tall tales about his family background and his schemes finally catch up to him but this is a cad who always lands on his feet. Director Barbara Pettis keeps the show flowing from one scene to the next, keeping her 22 member cast in constant motion while David Tiedman as music director leads a wonderful orchestra and the 1940's choreography by Samantha Brior-Jones helps to round out the many dance numbers in this trip back to 1940's Chicago and the glorious music of Rodgers and Hart.
Gary Poholek plays the role of Joey with a twinkle in his eye as he tells about his family dog, their fortune lost in the Stock Market crash of 1929 and other stories to captivate his latest conquest. He uses his wonderful singing voice throughout the show in various numbers including "A Great Big Town" which is a salute to Chicago, "You Mustn't Kick Me Around" and "Happy Hunting Horn" which are song and dance numbers with the chorus girls. His best numbers are "I Could Write a Book" and "Den Of Iniquity" which are two duets where he tries to seduce the ingenue in the former and where he and his society matron sing of their affair in their beautiful hotel room. Gary who did a phenomenal job in a one man version as Scrooge, handles this role with ease, and having great chemistry with all the women in his life. Janet Ferreri plays Vera Simpson, the older woman in Joey's life. She sounds like a young Katherine Hepburn with her line delivery, showing the strength of a woman in the 1940's. She captures the woman's bitchiness and shrewdness perfectly, showing this older woman has had many affairs in the past and gotten away with it. Janet's singing voice is wonderful, too. She gets to sing the best known song in the show, "Bewitched" as well as the comic "What is Man?", the "Den of Iniquity" duet and "Take Him" a duet with the younger woman in Joey's life. Siobhaun Maus plays the young, naive Linda English perfectly. She is a gorgeous brunette with a glorious singing voice and wonderful charisma in this role. You immediately root for this young girls plight at the hands of this womanizer. Unfortunately she only gets to sing two numbers in the show, a duet with Gary on "I Could Write a Book" and with Janet on "Take Him" but her voice soars in both of them. Siobhaun's acting and dancing in this part are wonderful, too and I hope to see her in larger roles in the future.
The villains of this show are played by Sheri Ziccardi as Gladys and David Giagrando as Ludlow. Sheri leads the chorus girls in several numbers in the first act and we don't find out she is in cahoots with Ludlow until the second act when he makes his first appearance. She and David are the comic blackmailers who get to sing and dance together in "Plant You Now, Dig You Later" and "Do It the Hard Way". Other musical solos include "Zip" by Cynthia Wegel as Melba, the reporter who does a striptease to tell Joey how much she hates nightclubs and "The Flower Garden of My Heart" by Bill Bowen as Louis who gets to open the second act with his strong tenor voice while singing to the chorus girls dressed as flowers. The standout actor in this show is Gene Guidi as Mike Spears, the owner of the nightclub. His bombastic delivery as the man in charge of things is perfect and he commands every scene he appears in, showing his expertise as a strong character actor. So for a trip back to the past, catch "Pal Joey" before it leaves town.