Academy Players first show of their 47th season is the funny but touching musical, "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?". It focuses on eight children during their Catholic elementary and high school education in the 1950's, capturing the most humorous aspects of youthful growing pains and the trying moments of adolescence. Director Steve Pacheco takes his 13 member cast on a joyous journey into the 50's with his expert leadership and with his musical director, Anthony Torelli, who also conducts a 14 piece orchestra, gives the audience a very enjoyable evening of musical theatre at its best.
The show opens with a former student visiting his grade school to search for his true love. We are taken back to his first day of school to see how their relationship grew. Besides the eight students, there is the pastor of the parish and four nuns in this cast and they all full there roles wonderfully. Steve has an eye for detail and the revolving set on wheels with a scrim background and benches moved on and off make the scenes flow smoothly into one another. Not only does Steve direct this show, he also made the costumes, too. (The girls plaid uniforms and the nuns outfits are very authentic looking.) Anthony does an excellent job teaching the cast their many intricate and difficult songs as well as leading a fantastic orchestra. The harmonic blends in the choral numbers soar as do the solos and duets. The strong leadership of Steve and Anthony shines through to make this show one to be proud of. The added element of choreography is executed by Leslie Choquette who does double duty by playing the role of Virginia.Her many dances in the show include soft shoe, rock and roll, and some ballet steps while wearing the infamous patent leather shoes. This is Leslie's debut as a choreographer and she handles the job like an old pro, getting the whole cast to do some pretty fancy and complicated footwork and doing it with ease.
The two leads are played by Anthony Prichard as Eddie and Valerie Remillard as Becky. The character of Eddie is a Charlie Brown type of role where he doesn't catch on to things very quickly and when he makes up his mind about something, it's usually too late. Anthony is a strong actor who captures the youthfulness of the child as well as the pain during the teen years. His poignant portrayal at losing Becky to the covent in the second act is very convincing. He also handles his "I Must Be In Love" and "Late Bloomer" solos very well. Valerie does an excellent job as the fat girl in Act 1. The pathos of this hurt little girl comes through especially in the playground scene where the other girls make fun of her and in the scene with Sister Lee where Becky gets to crown the Blessed Mother. Valerie makes the transition from fat to thin girl in her teenage scenes. Her gorgeous soprano voice sells the "Little Fat Girls" ballad, the duets, "The Greatest Gift" and "Friends, The Best Of". Great job.
The other six students are played by strong actors, dancers and vocalists, too. Steve Michelson plays Louis, the student always questioning the priest about matters of faith. He gets a chance to show off his wonderful singing voice in the rock & roll number "Doo-Waa, Doo Wee" in which he shakes his pelvis like Elvis. Trish St. Laurent plays Nancy, the girl who wonders "How Far Is Too Far", ( a song that reminds you of "At The Ballet" from "A Chorus Line") after taking a sex education course in eighth grade but during her senior year she ends up doing it with a college sophmore. Trish shows a strong voice off in her solos and does a great job as this confused girl. The troublemaker, Felix is played by Paul Oliver. The confession scenes are very funny where he keeps getting more sins to confess as he grow up. Paul leads the "Mad Bomber' song which sounds like "Greased Lightening" from Grease in which the boys want to have sex while the girls sing about "Saving Ourselves". Leslie as Virginia sings the lead in that number and she does a good job in this role. Her dance numbers are wonderful but she really shines in her ballet solo in the Act 1 finale. Tom Richards plays Mike whose older brother knows everything and Mike makes sure he lets the other kids know it constantly. Tom plays his comedic role well and has a fabulous baritone voice which he uses in the chorus numbers and his solo lines, too. Shana Cobin plays the teacher's pet, Mary who knows all the answers to all the questions. She also shows her jealous streak when Becky gets to crown the BVM. Shana plays a screaming fan in the second act during Steve's number which leads to much laughter from the crowd. Great ensemble acting is seen throughout the show by the student playing performers.
The veteran performers in the cast portray the other roles. Don Cornell is hilarious as Father O'Reilly especially when he teaches the boys sex education classes and hears the children's confessions. Don and the boys sing the funniest song of the show called "Private Parts". The penance he gives to each one in confession to atone for their sins is very funny, too. Joann Maccarone plays the strict, Sister Lee who opens her heart to Becky by telling her God creates everyone differently in the "Cookie Cutters" song. She also teaches the girls sex ed by telling them patent leather shoes reflect up and pearls reflect down. One of her funniest lines is that most rapes occur near restaurants so be very careful. Joann does a wonderful Irish jig in the finale of Act 1. Wonderful character actress. Another actress who shines in her role is Joetta McKenna as Sister Helen. She is the children's teacher who disciplines them with her ruler and her book. Joetta has a magnificent voice which soars off the charts in her song about God's love being "The Greatest Gift". She will send chills up your spine.Rounding out this talented cast are Janet Prichard who plays the gym teacher nun, Sister Monica Marie and Amy Fletcher who plays the principal's secretary, Sister Melanie. Another word of praise for the closing number of the show which utilizes the whole cast in an enormous and very moving finale
So for a very entertaining evening of fantastic musical theatre, be sure to see Academy Players, "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?". You won't be disappointed.