Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Where's Charley?"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Beverly Creasey

Chipper "Charley" at Boston Conservatory

by Beverly Creasey

Regrettably, this review arrived via snail-mail
after the show closed

No less than six movies have been made of "Charley's Aunt", the adorably silly play upon which the delightful musical "Where's Charley" is based --- proving that a) farce is always a crowd pleaser, and b) everybody loves a guy in drag.

Charley and his buddy have invited two gorgeous young ladies to Charley's house, and the women have accepted because Charley's aunt will be there to make it all seem proper and above board. When it looks like the aunt can't come, Charley is induced to dress up as the dowager and --- as will always happen in the best of farces -- not one but two gentlemen fall for her/him.

The Boston Conservatory, which gave us the definitive "Assassins" a few seasons back, has done it again. The good news is that their spunky production of "Where's Charley?" is a winner. The bad news is that it's only up for one weekend. That's very bad news because you won't see better ensemble work anywhere.

Director Mickey Coburn has piled laugh upon laugh, surprise upon surprise in this delicious confection set at the turn of the century --- the last one. It is hard to tell where Coburn's direction end and Michelle Chasse's choreography begins --- the mark of a flawless production! Suffice it to say every scene and every song has just the right quirky touch, never too much (not even in the "Pernambuco" extravaganza), just an odd, unexpected turn of heads or a synchronized look to add emphasis and whimsy to the already outrageous Brandon Thomas script.

The entire cast radiates a sweet, earnest energy, and can they sing! Under conductor Jay Atwood's smart musical direction --- using the restored original orchestration --- the singers tear into Frank Loesser's magnificent score. And every word is enunciated clearly --- something often not found in professional productions

I wish I could name everyone; each and every role is a delight. Douglas Horner and Katie H. Adams make an adorable couple as the best friends of Charley (Matt Bauer holding his own against the memory of Ray Bolger) and his special gal (the super-talented Lauren Kling). They have the daunting task of being the romantic as well as the comic leads. Bauer delivers the show-stopping "Once in Love with Amy" and Kling brings down the house with her sensational rendition of the jealous paean :The Woman in His Room". Kling's mock operatic, mock tango treasure is the best reason to run right out and see "Where's Charley?" this weekend.

If you want more reasons, there's Jana Durland Howland's inventive period costumes, Janie E. Howland's wonderful sets (especially the silhouetted cotillion) and John R. Malinowski's lush rose lighting for that silhouette.

The legendary producer George Abbott, who wrote the book for "Where's Charley?" lived almost a century and bragged that he knew Broadway taste. Once you get a taste of this production you'll wonder why no one has revived it until now.

"Where's Charley?" (till 22 November)
Boston Conservatory Theater, 31 Hemenway Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide