Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Saturday Night"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark


"Saturday Night">/H2>

Book by Julius J. Epstein
Based on "Front Porch in Flatbush"
by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Will McGarrahan
Musical Direction by Jose Delgado
Choreography by David Connolly

Scenic Design by Eric Levenson
Lighting design by Karen Perlow
Properties by John Michael Rossi
Costume by Design by Stacey Stephens
Production Stage Manager Dana Elizabeth Wolf

Gene.................................................................................John Mette
Helen...........................................................................Bridget Beirne
Dino..............................................................................Jose Delgado
Artie..................................................................................Bill Folman
Ray/Voice on Record..............................................John Michael Dias
Ted................................................................................Braden Lubell
Bobby............................................................................Chris Lambrix
Hank...............................................................................David Krinitt
Celeste.............................................................................Jackie Duffy
Mildred..............................................................................Mary Faber
Pinhead/Boy.....................................................................John Porcaro
Flo/Dakota/Girl................................................................Tara Filowitz
Plaza Singer/Headwaiter/Clune............................................J. T. Turner
Ballroom Attendant/Mr. Fletcher/Cop/Mr. Fisher/Waiter.....Paul Dimilla

Orchestra
Conductor/Piano.......John Goldberg
Reed #1.......................Louis J. Toth
Reed #2........................Ray Taranto
Percussion..................Peter Himmer
Trumpet #1..............Steve Banzaert
Trombone....................Todd Millen
Bass..........................Chuck Gabriel

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when "Flatbush" was a household word, when a dime was an over-generous tip to a cab-driver, and the only true disgrace a young man could face was ending up without a date on "Saturday Night". Julius J. Epstein turned the play "Front Porch in Flatbush" (written by his brother Philip G. and himself) into the book for a musical set in 1929 --- one year before the birth of the young man who did the show's music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim, the American musical comedy, and "Saturday Night" were all very young together when it was written and came a whisker short of becoming his first Broadway show. Now, some fifty years later, SpeakEasy Stage has put it on at The Lyric Stage of Boston with a big fourteen-member cast singing the old/new work of this promising young theatrical artist.

All I can say is "wow".

The search for feminine companionship is only one strand of the plot here. It's 1929 and Gene (John Mette) and Helen (Bridget Beirne) meet in finery they can barely afford, both trying to sneak into a posh party uptown. She's pretending, but he burns for the lush life and gets himself into deep trouble acting as though he's already there. His clerking on Wall Street gives him a hot tip on a sure stock (Montana Chem) so he and all his friends chip in to make a killing on margin, and ..... and did I say this was 1929?

His quartet of Flatbush flatmates are Dino (Jose Delgado) Artie (Bill Folman) Ted (Braden Lubell) and Bobby (Chris Lambrix), who share in Gene's stock-pool and "share" a date (Mildred, played by Mary Faber) one week, and go halvsies the next when Flo (Tara Filowitz) joins in. David Krinitt plays Hank, who is already married to Celeste (Jackie Duffy) --- the only one who can scare up a free female or two at 7 p m of a Saturday. Oh, and the fifth roomie Ray (John Michael Dias) pretends he needs the flat empty because rather than dateless he's entertaining a married lady who figment-like never appears; but his dateless pals all envy his pretended success.

The only one in the play with any money is Gene's cousin Gene (John Porcaro) and just to tell the two apart everyone calls him "Pinhead". This rich snob is off to Miami for two weeks and asks his cousin to drive the car around the block once a day to keep the battery from running low. And when Gene needs some quick cash, guess what he thinks he can sell, just until that sure stock goes up. If it weren't for the love of a good woman leading him back to the straight-and-narrow.....

But in those thrilling days of yesteryear, when a Canarsie accent separated Flatbush from Uptown, and "nickelodeon" defined how much a movie cost, and friends stuck tageddah no matta what, only happy endings could happen under a full moon.

Stacey Stephens' costumes have a period flavor the entire cast brings sincerely to life, capturing youthful yearning and bickering, camaraderie and one-upmanship. Director Will McGarrahan has a delicate touch, and Music Director Jose Delgado sees to it all new Sondheim Songs that define character and further the plot are sung by real people who never break character. This is Sondheim writing the way Frank Loesser used to, but with an urge to clever rhyme and a habit of ending on a high note. After hearing fifty years of Stephen Sondheim growing up, his first musical is still fun, fresh, and fascinating.

Love,
===Anon.


"Saturday Night" (8 - 30 June)
SPEAKEASY STAGE CO.
The Lyric Stage, Second Floor, YWCA, 140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 437-7731


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