The final show of The Players 93rd season is Frank Loesser's "The Most Happy Fella", the musical version of the 1924 Pulitzer prize winning play, "They Knew What They Wanted" by Sidney Howard. Written in 1956, the storyline is about a middle-aged grape grower, Tony, who falls in love with a young waitress. They begin a mail-order love affair with the girl under the mistaken idea that a photo of Tony's young foreman is her intended husband. The mixture of strong vocal prowess in the musical numbers plus the acting talents of 27 cast members under the expert direction of Alma Fontana and musical direction of Ron Procopio, make this into an excellent must see show.
Alma casts the show perfectly from the leads to the 2 children. Most of the show is an operetta so the acting must been very strong to carry the message of the show. Alma handles this huge cast with ease and gets the best from all 27 performers. Ron handles the 33 musical numbers beautifully. He proves his talent by not only playing piano for this show, but by conducting 4 other instrumentalists, too. (Sandi Martineau on violin, Keith Udelson on string bass, Dan Leighton on flute & oboe and Ron's son, Buddy on percussion) Ron brings out the harmonies in the group songs especially with the quartet in "Standing On the Corner" and the Italian trio numbers, "Abbondanza" and "Spoosalizio". This whole ensemble have fabulous voices and they fill the theatre with glorious sounds. The third element of this show is the choreography by Germaine Olear. She moves this massive chorus around the stage in the "Big D" song, the title number and "Young People". All these things help to create this superb show.
The leading man, Tony is played by John Bergmark. He captures the loving warmth of this man perfectly. John's strong voice is used to full advantage in this show especially in his duets with his leading lady including, "Happy To Make Your Acquaintance", (a comic gem) "Warm All Over" and "My Heart's So Full Of You". (2 beautiful ballads) His leading lady, Rosabella is played by Maria Sepe Tavarozzi. She gives this ingenue role the strength and backbone it needs. Maria shows great range in her crying scene when she finds out she has been deceived and afterwards displays spunk with a display of anger. She has a gorgeous soprano voice which she uses in the duets with John and in her solos, "Somebody, Somewhere", ( a poignant longing to find her true love) "Aren't You Glad", (a funny song where she mistakes Joe, the foreman for Tony) and "Please Let Me Tell You". (a song where she confesses to Tony) Outstanding performances by the two leads. The third part of this triangle is Joe, played by David Crossley. He does a wonderful job portraying this role. Joe is a complex part because he is at first Tony's close friend then becomes a cad later on, but since this is a 1950's show he is redeemed before the final curtain. David handles his solos, "Joey" and "Don't Cry" with ease, showing off his strong baritone voice.
The comic duo in this show, Herman, the ranch hand and Cleo, the waitress are played by Dennis Bouchard and Amy Thompson. Dennis does a fantastic job as Herman from his lead in the quartet, "Standing On the Corner" (backed up by Bill Dunn, Jack O'Keefe and Bob St. Jean) to his rousing duet with Amy, "Big D" backed up by the dancing and singing chorus. Amy, a strong comedienne, opens the show with the humorous, "Ooh! My Feet!" as she hops around the stage with her sore feet and another comic number is "I Don't like this Dame" duet where she swears silently about Tony's obnoxious sister. She and Dennis do a great job on "I Like Everybody" and "I Made a Fist" where Herman lets everyone abuse him in the first song and in the latter one, he defends Cleo by beating up her attacker, thus making a fist. (Dennis received sustained laughter on this last number.) Both Dennis and Amy have the vocal talent as well as the comic to pull off these roles. The villianess in this musical is played by Holly Applegate. She plays Tony's younger, mean spirited, sister, Marie. In her first number, "Long Ago" Marie says their mother said Tony was too ugly to get married so Marie would have to take care of him. Holly uses her strong, soprano voice in her duet, "I Don't Like this Dame" with Cleo, her quartet, "How Beautiful The Days" and the trio, "Nobody's Gonna Love You". Holly plays this vile woman, who is afraid to be left alone, so well, I wanted to boo her at curtain call.
The biggest scene stealers in this show are the Three Chefs played by Jordan Cannady, Walter Cotter and Lou DiFante. They sing their Italian songs in perfect three part harmony while they skip about the stage or as they hold the food up at the party. They reprise the "Abbondanza" song to get the crowd back in their seats for the third act. Superb job! Other supporting cast members include Richard Concannon, who handles duel roles as the sympathetic town doctor as well as the womanizing restaurant owner, Alan McLaughlin as the Postman and cowboy who dances with Rosabella, Ron Mutton as the kindly priest, and Hannah Sydney Spacone and David Wheeler as the two scene stealing kids who dance and smile on cue. The rest of the ensembe roles are played by Cassie Alley, Alexa Battey, Tara Beaulieu, Michele Bourget, Gina Calise, Eva-Marie Coffey, Carol Forrest, Kelly House, Sara Asbury Kobliska and Robin Long.
Last but not least, the expert set design by Dan Clement of the town, the buildings and especially the backdrop and the farmhouse added the needed touch to the scenes as did the great lighting by Ron Eastwood and spotlight operator, Maryann Ricci. So for a fantastic evening of entertainment be sure to catch, "The Most Happy Fella" at Barker Playhouse. For further info on how to join this club, contact Lydia Matteson. (who also stage managed this enormous show, making one scene flow into the next, keeping the show flowing beautifully all night long) You can reach her at 273-0590 or at firstname.lastname@example.org Tell her Tony sent you.