Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Cheaper by The Dozen"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2001 by Tony Annicone

"Cheaper by The Dozen"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Theatre Works current show is the real life story of the Gilbreth family, "Cheaper by the Dozen". Told in flashback style by the two characters playing the children who authored the book, the show captures the strictness of the effiency expert father and his underlying love and caring for his 12 children. Director Bert Cayer chooses a talented cast of children and adults to carry off this warm family play.

The three act play takes place in the 1920's and has a gorgeous set with furnishings supplied by antique dealers, Fred and Alice Reinhardt. Director Cayer handles the scenes with the family wonderfully. The father whistles for the family to assemble, reminding the audience of "The Sound of Music".He directs 8 children and makes them real people not artifical kids on stage. Bert also handles the comic entrances of the outside family actors very well, too. He is helped by producer, Anna Olson, stage manager, Melinda Tedeschi, costumer, Sharon Charette and lighting and sound operator, Chris Cournoyer by making the show run smoothly from start to finish.

The two narrators of the show are played by Alfred Fortier III as Frank Jr. and Kelley Marcotte as Ernestine. These two performers bring the proper amount of energy to carry off the scenes leading into the family flashbacks. They have a natural give and take and their scenes with the other children make you believe they are brothers and sisters in real life. Their facial expressions and reactions in their scenes are splendid, too.

The main storyline of the play concerns the coming of age of the eldest daughter, Ann and her rebellion against her strict, father. Real life father and daughter, Maurice and Allison Cournoyer play these roles. Moe makes the stern father believeable and the audience understands he wants his family to use their time wisely because his time is so short. Allison plays the teenager who wants to get boys to date her beautifully. She gets the emotions across and interacts well with her 2 sisters and her 2 boy friends. Allison learned this huge role in three weeks, showing how talented she is. Dorothy Hunt plays Mrs. Gilbreth who is really the "boss" of this large brood. She does well in all her scenes especially the two touching ones with Moe and Allison. Dorothy also has some funny moments especially in the scenes with the snotty teacher, Miss Brill. Her real life son, Charlie plays the role of Dan and shows his talent by standing up to his father, reciting difficult German lines and continually carrying the family collie onto the porch. This is Charlie's debut in a community theater production and he does it with ease.

Rachel Miller-Sprafke and Michael Poisson play Martha and Bill, two more of the older children. Rachel and Michael show off their talent and have some comic moments to prove it. Some examples are when she tells Ann's boyfriend, she isn't really studying but going out with college boys and when he chaperones Ann's date constantly stopping them from holding hands and kissing. The younger children hold their own with their older counterparts with their cute portrayals. Emily Luther as Lillian, Pheobe Neel as Freda and the youngest child on stage and biggest scene stealer, Guy Guilbault Jr. as Jackie complete the family beautifully.

Another outstanding performance is by veteran actress, Melinda Tedeschi. She is adept at comedy and drama. Melinda makes this bitchy teacher, Miss Brill into someone the audience dislikes by her awful treatment of the children. She gets boos and hisses at the curtain call showing what a great job she did in her role. The boys in Ann's life are played by Steve Nichols as Larry, the football player and Josh Smith as Joe Scales, the cheerleader. Steve brings the right amount of depth to this kind hearted jock and has good chemisry with Allison in their scenes together. Josh is a hoot as a dippy, flamboyently dressed cheerleader. He enters the house, teaches the kids a cheer and gets tossed out by Mr. Gilbreth making it very funny while doing it. Rounding out the cast are Lisa Forsgard as the exhausted maid, Mrs. Fitzgerald and Dennis Pruitt as the Dr. Burton who gets yelled at by Mr. Gilbreth. So for a wholesome, family show go see "Cheaper by the Dozen", you won't be sorry and you'll see a lot of talent on that stage.

"Cheaper by The Dozen" (till 18 November)
1(401) 766-1898

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide