Theatre Mirror Review>"Meet Me in St. Louis">Aida"

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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"Meet Me in St.Louis"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Ocean State Theatre Company's third season holiday show is the classic musical comedy from the Golden Age "Meet Me in St. Louis." This stage show is based on the heartwarming 1944 MGM film which starred Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor, Tom Drake and Marjorie Main. The stage version opened in 1989 on Broadway. Join the Smith family at the 1904 World's Fair and see how their love and respect for each other is tempered with the genuine humor that can only be generated by such a close family. Memorable numbers include "The Boy Next Door", "Under the Bamboo Tree", "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The Trolley Song." Gary John LaRosa returns as director/choreographer of this musical, having directed "Peter Pan" for Ocean State at TBTS in 2009. I also reviewed Gary's productions of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" in 2002, "I Love You You're Perfect Now Change" and "Always Patsy Cline" in 2003 at TBTS. He picks a very talented cast who can sing these classic songs, dance up a storm and act beautifully as these early twentieth century characters. Gary has a keen eye for blending the comic and dramatic elements of a musical splendidly and this show is another feather in his cap. His dance numbers sparkle and shine especially "The Banjo", "The Trolley Song", The Christmas Waltz" and "Skip to My Lou". They include struts, cakewalks, square dances to name a few which the cast executes perfectly. Musical director Esther Zabinski obtains the best harmonic sound from her talented cast and conducts an five piece orchestra while playing lead keyboards. The stunning two story set by Charles Murdock Lucas is splendid and the gorgeous turn of the century costumes by Brian Horton are perfect.

The script for the second act is much stronger than the first act and includes the Halloween, Christmas and July 4th segments. The most poignant scene is when Tootie cries about leaving St. Louis and worrying that Santa won't be able to find her in New York. Leading this cast as Esther is Sarah Pothier. She displays her gorgeous soprano voice in "The Boy Next Door", "The Trolley Song" and the tear jerking "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" which she sings to her youngest sister, Tootie. Sarah makes the audience root for her and her family to have a happy ending. She also displays her spunky side when she punches the boy next door in the mouth and stomach because she thought he hit her baby sister. Bobbie Celine Doherty as six year old Tootie steals your heart and delivers the goods as this iconic character. Bobbie has many cute one liners and the audience loves her from start to finish. She is terrific in "The Drunk Song" and "Under the Bamboo Tree" with Sarah and Lily McMahon as Agnes, her co-mischief maker. Agnes and Tootie argue a lot and confess their shenanigans about throwing a dummy on the trolley track on Halloween. Lily has a powerful singing voice, too.

Ronald L Brown and Rebecca Barko portray Alonso and Anna Smith, the parents of the Smith family. He is a bit of a curmudgeon in the first act when he refuse to have dinner early but redeems himself by not moving the family to New York after Tootie's crying scene at Christmas. Ronald displays his voice in "A Day in New York" with the family and "Wasn't It Fun?" with Rebecca. She has a glorious soprano voice which is heard in "You'll Hear Bell" when Anna explains how she fell in love with her husband. Stacey Geer steals many a scene as Katie, the Irish maid. She displays her marvelous voice in the group numbers and especially in "Touch of the Irish", the trio with Esther and Rose. Stacey is hilarious as the wise-cracking maid. Mark S. Cartier portrays kindly Grandpa Prophater who helps Esther out at the Christmas Ball. He has a terrific rapport with the children of the family.

One of the best dancers in the show is Michael Luongo as Lon who leads the dancers in the energetic square dance "Skip to My Lou" and the magnificent "The Banjo" number with a cake walk that rivals the one from "Mame". The oldest sister Rose is Hannah Spacone who plays hard to get with her rich beau Warren and spouts French phrases at him throughout the show. Blond haired Joshua Stenseth as John Truitt, the boy next door. He doesn't notice Esther at first and then grows fond of her at Lon's going away to Princeton party. John finally propose to Esther at the Christmas Ball. He displays his strong voice with Sarah in "You Are For Loving". Roger Reed as Warren pursues Rose and tries to woe her in the first act with "Raving Beauty" with Hannah and finally proposes to her at Christmas. Kudos to the chorus members on their topnotch singing and dancing prowess. So for a trip back to the carefree days of the last century, be sure to catch the heartwarming "Meet Me in St. Louis" at Ocean State Theatre Company. It will bring you into the spirit of the holiday season.

"Meet Me in St. Louis" (3 - 28 December)
@ 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, WARWICK RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide