Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Rip Van Winkle"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2004 by Tony Annicone

"Rip Van Winkle"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Mansfield Music & Arts Society's current production is a musical theater adaptation of Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle". Local writer, Ruth Edinberg adapted the story into a musical and it was first performed at the Charles Playhouse in 1968. The show is a family tale about this early Dutch settler in upstate New York who sleeps his way through the American Revolution. It takes place along the Hudson River in the Catskill Mountains form 1769 to 1793. Ruth not only wrote the script but also the music and lyrics. Directors Cindy Ballard and Ken Butler add the needed oomph to this historical tale while Mark McCarron clad in a powdered wig, plays the piano beautifully, he also musically directs this show with choreography by Karen McDonald. (The dancing fish are hilarious.) Their combined efforts and a talented cast make for a fun filled evening of entertainment which the whole family especially children will enjoy.

Ken not only co-directs this show, he also designed the fantastic set from wonderful backdrops of the tavern, the Catskill Mountains, the Van Winkle shack and the fishing wharf. The sets fly in and out keeping the show's pace moving. Ruth's music includes minuets, ballads and marching numbers. A soft shoe song called "High on a Hill Top" reminds you of "Once In Love With Amy" from "Charley's Aunt" while "I'm Helping My Husband" sounds like "Away in a Manger". The rousing "Grand Election Day" uses audience involvement by clapping and booing at the right times in the song.

Jeff Swaebe is excellent as Rip Van Winkle. He captures the sympathy of the audience from the first time his shrew wife screams at him. Jeff makes Rip a loveable rascal and he uses his wonderful baritone voice in the show including "In Case a Crocodunk Comes Along which he sings with his children and Peter while they are fishing, "High on a Hill Top" with his dog, Wolf doing a soft shoe and "Hail to General Washington", the finale with entire cast. Wolf is played by 13 year old Chelsey Ballard who doesn't utter a word but steals your heart as Rip's best friend. One of the funniest characters in the show is Cathy Corcoran as Rip's bitchy, shrewish wife who is constantly yelling and screaming at him for being a lazy loafer. Her first song, "Spit and Polish" where she laments her first mistake was marrying the lout is performed with her two children. The song is hilarious while they sing and do a dance with mops. Cathy's other solo is "Look at the Barn" where she rants and raves that the place is falling apart which it does and she ends up with her foot stuck in a bucket of water. The wonderful thing is she doesn't miss a note of the song while doing so. Katie Vincent plays Judith, her daughter and Scott McNeil plays her son, Rip. Both of them do a wonderful job in their roles while singing and dancing up a storm with Cathy and then with Joe Solari who plays Peter, Judith's boyfriend and future husband. They sing "Rock, Oak, Vine", "Turn Aroound-O" and Joe and Katie's tender duet, "I'm Helping My Husband". He owns the Union Hotel when Rip returns to town. Another scene stealer is Ellen Brams as Dame Vanderdonk who is the town's historian. She tells what has transpired while Rip has been asleep to the audience and she beat a bass drum during an audience participation number. Rip has been put under a spell by Henry Hudson and his men as they did to Dame Vanderdonk's father many years ago. She is a hoot with her facial expressions and antics which help to enliven the closing scenes. So for a fun filled evening be sure to catch this hard working 18 member cast in "Rip Van Winkle".

"Rip Van Winkle" ( 26 - 28 March)
THE MANSFIELD MUSIC & ARTS SOCIETY
The Orpheum Theater, 1 School Street, Foxboro, MA
1- 508-543-ARTS

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