Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Hopeless Romantic"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |



"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


Reviews of Current Productions


note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark


"The Hopeless Romantic"

Book, Music & Lyrics by Domenic Testa
Directed & Choreographed by Leo Kharabian
Orchestrations & Incidental Music by Jack Jarrett
Musical Direction by Rhonda Monroe

Scenic Design by Judith Stacier
Costumes by Dora Ramirez
Lighting Design by Holly Gettings
Production Stage Manager Odessa Cozzolino

Tom.........................................J. H. Williston
Ann.......................................Laura Yosowitz
Vince................................Geoffrey P. Barnes
Louie.............................Christine MacDougal
F. Dexter Breezeway....................Reese Snow
Suzanne................................Laura Summerhill
Gaston......................................John Beresford
Meg......................................Carrie Daigneault
Pam............................................Sherry Koftan
Bison Bill/Tourist..........................John Conlon
Pierre................................Anthony M. Consolo
Mother/Tourist.........Lynd Greenwood-Schuepp
Chorus:
Rena Pemper-Rodriguez, Osmani A. Rodriguez, Paul Guida, Gwen I. Gilmartin


Domenic Testa has made "a new old-fashioned musical" and though he's not finished tinkering and tweaking, the version at the Riverside Theater Works (in the old French's Opera House in Hyde Park) will remind anyone of the classic Gene Kelly movies from the MGM golden age. And if you like that sort of thing, you'll like this sort of thing. Testa has the style down cold.

"The Hopeless Romantic" here is not so much the hero (Tom) as the hero's friend (Vince) --- the comic role of "hero's helper" usually given to Donald O'Connor or Jules Munshin. Played here by energetic Geoffrey P. Barnes, Vince is an old-movie buff eager to launch himself or his friends into wild schemes, like taking a whirlwind tour of Europe, or scaling a forty story building to paste a valentine on his girl-friend's window. (So what if it turns out to be the wrong building? Isn't it the thought that counts?) He's given to quick comic takes, elaborate mugging, and exuberant dance routines.

Remember now, this show is of an age when people broke into songs or/and dances to express their overflowing emotions. "Break into Song" is the title of one advice-number, and other songs define states of mind like "I Just Can't Stop Thinking About Him" or the ironic "Having A Wonderful Time" or in the case of Tom's other friend Dexter "I Want to Be Rich!" There's a French waiter's sour view of "Tourists" and an exact flip-side in the "Tourist's Lament", and of course "I'm Just A Hopeless Romantic" sung by guess who as he imagines himself singin' in the rain.

The dancing here comes more out of ballet than tap, with unlikely leaps and lifts and quick, intricate slapstick bits. Director/Choreographer Leo Kharibian knows these are quick-sketch types more than characters, and moves the simple misunderstandings and mismatchings of the plot along from song-cue to dance-routine to comedy bit with total disregard for any reality. The flavor isn't Sondheim (though the song "Such A Fool" comes close), but as Vince and the girl he meets in Paris (Christine MacDougal) face his return home there are real tears in her "I Never Meant to Fall In Love With You".

The major plot-line has Tom (J. H. Williston) running into forgotten old dates (Sherry Koftan & Carrie Daigneault) though a week with Ann (Laura Yosowitz) means he spends his sudden vacation writing her plaintive post-cards. And the reasons why they've bonded are of course as flimsy as the reasons why the course of true love never does run smooth. This is the frothy fifties again, remember.

F. Dexter Breezeway (Reese Snow) has a credit-card for a heart, but even he finds romance with the flamboyant Suzanne (Laura Summerhill) whose excuse for flinging herself at any man she meets is a sizzlingly sexy explanation "Because I'm French" that brings down the house and the first-act curtain.

There is more. Judith Stacier has designed an art-nouveau hotel-front that out-Muchas Mucha; Jack Jarrett has put a synthesizer and a computer together in such a way that he can conduct an entire non-existent full orchestra in synch with action on stage; and everyone works with energy and precision at the serious business of having fun. If you didn't spend your adolescence in the dark learning what love is from Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly you may think it sweet and silly.

I loved it.

Love,
===Anon.

"The Hopeless Romantic" (till 10 May)
LIFFORD PRODUCTIONS
45 Fairmount Avenue, HYDE PARK
1(617)361-7024

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |