Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
I was unfamiliar with any of the creative people, except Michael Colby who I know from a CD tribute to his work called "Quel Fromage, 50 years of Colby" which I rather enjoy, and as the lyricist for the musical Charlotte Sweet which is an oddly endearing backstage story with a large dose of charm. I found Boynton Beach Club to be a mess of cliche-driven characters (the man who has just lost his wife, the woman who claims widowhood but is in actuality a divorcee) and situations (older woman who has sworn off dating and men in general meets a younger man), with uninteresting music and some groan-inducing lyrics.
I got a bad feeling right from the start when the opening number, "The Time of Our Lives (lyrics by Cornelia Ravenal), didn't hold my attention. My mind kept jumping to the musical Baby (music by David Shire, lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.). The book by Sybille Pearson also is cliche ridden, dealing with three couples at different stages of their lives having or wanting to have a baby. The difference is that Maltby and Shire's score is one of the finest ever written for a Broadway musical, and the music takes the characters on the emotional journey not found in the book. Would that Ginsburg and Colby provide even a few good songs. Finally, midway through the second act they deliver a sextet for our three leading couples that delivers some of the emotional honesty so completely lacking elsewhere.
The show at hand simply doesn't give our hard working cast a chance. The songs don't take off emotionally when they should, making them almost impossible to deliver in a way that would engage the audience in the situations. All of these performers have had far greater successes in other shows on others stages, both recently and in the past. Our three leading couples are Sandy Wills, played by Ellen Kleinschmidt, and Jack Goodman played by Rodd Dyer (almost always a dependable supporting performer); Marilyn Carter, played by Meg Newsome, and Harry Fanelli, played by Al Jackson; and Lois Paulson, played by Nancy Denton (fantastic earlier this season in The Toxic Avenger), and Donald Best, played by Brian Kleinschmidt. All are capable of much more than they are able to deliver in Boynton Beach Club.
Michelle Anaya has a nice turn as a younger woman who attempts to lure Harry into a sexual situation that is beyond him. Appearing as a quartet of still married couples are John Andruzzi, Alice Byre, Christen Manuel, and James Olson.
Producing Artistic Director Rick Kerby directs this mess, and I guess he just couldn't figure out how to make a living, breathing production out of it. Nothing in this production rises to the level of the best things seen on stage at Manatee Performing Arts Center. The good news is that sound design by Tom Sell is solidfinally I can totally believe that the sonic gremlins that infected this theater over its first couple of seasons are well and truly gone. Thanks to all who made that happen.
Thank you for Manatee Players for daring to try something new. Next time let's hope for something far better than Boynton Beach Club.
Manatee Players presents Boynton Beach Club at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts through April 2, 2017, at 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton FL; 941-748-0111,manateeplayers.com.
Directed by Rick Kerby