Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Captains Courageous"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark


"Captains Courageous The Musical"

Music by Frederick Freyer
Book & Lyrics by Patrick Cook
Based on Rudyard Kipling's novel
Directed by Bryan Halperin
Music Direction by Don Boronson

Set Design by Tom Danaghey
Lighting Design by John Fitzpatrick
Costumes by Debbi Hafitz, Michele Frazee, Stacy Andler
Specialty Set Pieces & Proops by Greg Paul
Sound Design by John Redue
Producers Johanna Halperin & Debbi Heafitz
Stage Managers Jean MacFarland & Michele Frazee

Manuel.....................Tim Fitzgerald
Harvey Cheyne..........Harley Yanoff
Doc...................Mark Hetherington
Long Jack...........................Bill Toll
Captain............................Bill Boyer
Dan.........................Bryan Halperin
Mr. Cheyne.............Richard Mullen
Simon.....................David DaCosta
Stephens................Michael Heafitz
Walters........,...........Stephen Russo
Murphy......................Keith Ferrara
Ollie/Eliot.............Michael Veillette
Hemans..................Tom Donaghey
Henry Gaines...................Joe Foley
Tom Platt.................Tim Fitzgerald

What Community Theatre would pass up a sure bet like another "Annie" to try only the 8th production of an untried musical with fifteen men (all of whom must sing) and no women? A musical set on a Gloucester sailing ship fishing the Grand Banks in 1928? Well, the Newton Country Players did exactly that in an exercize-hall, with two keyboardists plus piano, and produced the world premiere of the rewritten first scene of Frederick Freyer and Patrick Cook's "Captains Courageous" to sell-out houses.
Bravo.

The plot sounds simple: a spoiled rich kid (Harley Yanoff) falls overboard and spends three months learning to be human and a part of the crew on that fishing boat, mentored by a Portagee seaman (Tim Fitzgerald). The boy's taught to sing for the first time, to work for the first time, and to love the sea and the man who loves it. After finding --- and losing --- a "father" he's reunited with the rich but unfeeling owner of a fleet of ocean-liners (Richard Mullen). But on board, the Captain (Bill Boyer) and his son (Bryan Halperin, who directed) argue over the future of sails in the dawning age of diesel stinkpots, and a jealous seaman (Bill Toll) whips up the crew to shun an immigrant and his "jonah".
This ain't "Annie" --- not by a Newton Country mile!

Patrick Cook's score leaned heavily on the rhythms and harmonies of sea chanties, often in multipart rounds, plus tender and intimate songs wherein fishermen communed with themselves, and with the ever present sea. Musical Director Don Boroson handled a synthesizer, a piano, and a cast of fifteen full-throated male voices singing while working. Bryan Halperin wove isolated scenes of dialogue into the broader picture of a sailing vessel's work, moving the action from a busy deck to an intimate dory and back, while the rivalry with a competing fishing ship boiled under the surface.

Some roles --- like Mark Hetherington's as the ship's cook and the story's narrator --- stood out, yet every one of this crew came alive as an individual, from the full beard or the raucous laugh to the way he handled a bait-knife or secured a rigging-line. But this cast --- like a crew --- fell to and did their parts with gusto, making "Captains Courageous" memorable.

And maybe next year The Newton Country Players will happen upon an all-woman production, just to balance out!

Love,
===Anon.


"Captains Courageous" (9 - 18 November)
NEWTON COUNTRY PLAYERS
The Windsor Club, 1601 Beacon Street, WABAN
1(617) 244-9538


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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