River Rep's Youth Theatre's summer show is the musical version of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" featuring the company's talented interns and talented guest performer. The original children's story was written by Robert Browning in 1888. This particular version was written in 1966 for PBS television with the book and lyrics by Evan Thompson and Joan Shepard, the founders of River Rep, and the music by Joe Bouchard and is set in 1376. It was a yearly favorite during the days of black and white TV but disappeared after color TV took over the airwaves. It's too bad this show is no longer available for TV audiences because it is a hidden gem of a show with a wonderful message for children of all ages and the music and storyline will keep you entertained from beginning to end. Director Arthur Pignataro does a fantastic job and is blessed with such talented performers in this show while his pianist, Ed Cremo also does an excellent job, making this musical capture the attention of all the children in the audience as well as all the adults.
Arthur infuses the cast with the energy needed to enthrall the crowd. He gets the humor out of every line and shtick in the show. The message given is to be sure to keep our promises to others as well as fairy tales can come true if you want them to. Evan and Joan's clever script should be performed more often because of the interweaving of dialogue and songs to create a fun filled family show. Joe Bouchard's music is catchy and easy to listen to and very enjoyable. Ed is a whiz at the piano, playing each number better than the next. Arthur's cast of 7 people do great work in their parts. David Hamilton, a guest performer, is hilarious as the not too bright Lord Mayor of Hamelin. He gets to solo on several songs including "Proclamation" where he sings about an idea he obtained from his smart daughter. The chorus opens the show with the song "In Hamelin" showing off their topnotch singing voices, which is followed by the song "Rats" which have over run the town, making everyone have to eat spinach. Elizabeth Munn plays the Lord Mayor's wife, Lina who loves to constantly go shopping. Unfortunately there is nothing left but moustache cups. Elizabeth gets to show off her singing voice in her solo, "Shopping List" which contains a line from "Greensleeves" and "A partridge in a pear tree". The Lord Mayor's daughter, Gretchen is played by Sheri Norige, a very pretty blond with a gorgeous soprano voice. Gretchen is in love with Peter, the clerk played by Ralph Colon. Their beautiful duet is done in counterpoint with Sheri singing "I Believe in Fairytales" while Ralph sings "Reality".He also sings about yearning to be loved by Gretchen. (Ralph who is an excellent dance plays a lame character in this show.) The two dumb members of the mayor's corporation are Mike Barra as Klaus, the police chief and Courtney Shaw as Otto the judge. They are both slapstick characters come to life. Hitting each other, doing pratfalls and running all around the stage. Mike's real life mother told me he was born with his foot in his mouth, a sure sign he was destined to be a comic actor. Both of them show off their voices throughout the show as does the Pied Piper played wonderfully by David Beck. As David makes his entrance onstage the children all oohed and aahed at him. David makes this magical creature come alive through his acting and with his two songs "Charm" and "Follow Me". So for a trip back to your childhood days when you read The Pied Piper or if you are seeing the show for the very first time be sure to catch the last two shows before it is too, late. Kudos to everyone who makes this a show to be proud of.