Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Romance/Romance"

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entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"Romance/Romance"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Vokes Players current show is "Romance/Romance". The show is a musical with a book and lyrics by Barry Harman and music by Keith Herrmann and is composed of two acts linked only by the common theme of love and the song "It's Not Too Late" performed in both acts. The first, "The Little Comedy", is based on a short story by Arthur Schnitzler and explores the budding relationship between two people who have adopted personas other than their own. Set in the late 19th century Vienna, it focuses on Josefine, a debutante who is weary of the social life provided by her upper class lovers, and wealthy playboy Alfred, who has tired of a seemingly endless round of inconsequential affairs. She assumes the guise of a seamstress, while he pretends to be a struggling poet, and the two meet while enjoying their new identities. Whether or not they can survive a weekend in the country with their usually glamorous trappings replaced by inedible food, bad wine, swarming insects, and total boredom is the question to be answered. The second act, "Summer Share" is based on Jules Renard's 1898 play "Le Pain de Menage", and is updated to the late 1980's and set in the Hamptons, where two married couples in their thirties are spending the season in a rented cottage. Sam, who is married to Barb, and Monica, who is married to Lenny, find themselves gradually progressing from harmless flirtation to the serious possibility of an illicit affair.The first act is more farcical in nature while the second becomes more serious and thought provoking. Director Julie Ann Govang picked the four best performers for these roles and mixes the comic and poignant moments together perfectly, obtaining a stunning performance from one and all.

She blocks the show beautifully and elicits amazing work from her hard working cast. Julie Ann is aided in her task by musical director Mario Cruz who not only conducts a six piece orchestra but plays the piano, too. His orchestra is topnotch especially Jeffrey Leonard on saxophone with his sublime rifts on some poignant numbers in the second act as standouts. Some of the numbers are Sondheimesque, reminding you of "A Little Night Music". Julie has Ethan Butler as Alfred and Heather Darrow as Josefine play the leads in Act 1 and has Adam Sell as Sam and Annie Keris as Monica play the leads in Act 2 with Ethan and Heather in supporting roles as Lenny and Barb. One of the standout numbers in the first act is the rousing "I'll Always Remember the Song" with both couples doing a terrific polka. Laura Espy choreographs the show with topnotch dances including waltzes, the polka, a kick line and some jazz. Ethan has a glorious tenor voice and Heather, a gorgeous soprano voice. They sing 12 numbers in Act 1. Their outstanding duet is "It's Not Too Late" which sounds like "I Want It All" from "Baby". His numbers include "Happy, Happy,Happy" and "Women of Vienna" while her numbers are "Goodbye Emil", "Yes, It's Love" and the romantic ballad "The Night It Had to End". Ethan and Heather's funniest number is "My Love for You" where they are dressed up like senior citizens on a cane and walker while doing a kick line dance. This vaudeville type number stops the show.

Adam has a marvelous baritone voice and Annie has a terrific mezzo soprano voice. His two poignant numbers are "Words He Doesn't Say" where he says Lenny isn't tender with Monica anymore and "Moonlight Through the Window" where he makes romantic overtures to Monica. Her two numbers are "How Did I End Up Here" where she wonders about her plight and "Now" where she seems ready to give in to having a fling. Group numbers include "Summer Share", "So Glad I Married Her" and "Romantic Notions" which makes you very reflective about relationships. The gorgeous nineteenth century costumes are by Elizabeth Tustian and the magnificent lighting design by Betsy Burr and splendid set by Sarah Rozene-Wolski. The music is fun filled at times but also thought provoking, too. So for a fantastic rendition of a hidden gem of a show with some catchy songs which are still relevant today, be sure to catch "Romance/Romance" at Vokes Players before the cast dances out of town.

"Romance/Romance" (3 - 19 November)
VOKES PLAYERS
@ Vokes Theatre, Route 20, WAYLAND MA
1(508)358-4034

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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