A Charming Production of Carmelina
In 1979, Burton Lane (Finian's Rainbow, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and Alan Jay Lerner (My Fair Lady, Brigadoon and Camelot) decided to set music to the successful 1969 film Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell which starred Gina Lollobrigida. Carmelina was to feature the great British songstress Georgia Brown (the original Nancy in Olivier! and the British 42nd Street and opera star Cesare Siepi. José Ferrer directed. The musical opened on April 8, 1979, at the St. James but ran only a few weeks. Reviews were mixed; Clive Barnes of the New York Time said, "The musical is wrong because everything is according to formula. It's just too old fashioned," but he liked it. By 1979, musical theatre was changing radically and there were also huge changes in the sound of popular music, which threw the old order deeper into disarray. Carmelina's producers didn't have enough money to keep the show open until word of mouth could spread. The 42nd Street Moon is now presenting the first large scale production since that time.
The plot closely follows the film, which is the story of an Italian woman who wrote three American World War II soldiers and told each that he was the father of a child she was raising in Italy. She told the Italian townspeople that her daughter, now a teenager, was the daughter of a great American hero named 2nd Lieutenant Campbell, who had liberated the town from the Germans.
The Army battalion is having their reunion in this small Italian village, and, of course, the three ex-servicemen will be at the reunion. They arrive and you can guess what transpires in this musical. (Essentially the same story is told in Mamma Mia!, the monster hit with ABBA music.)
Caroline Altman gives a beautiful performance as Carmelina. She has a lovely Italian accent and her voice is fluidly executed in "Prayer," "Why Him" and "Someone in April." Her Carmelina has an amount of sexual desire to equal her seeming virtuous nature. Bill Fahrner, a regular 42nd Street Moonie, is outstanding as Vittorio Bruno, a self-proclaimed Casanova who desperately wants to romance Carmelina. His strong singing voice rings out in "It's Time For a Love Song" and "Carmelina."
The three ex-GIs are well played by Will Springhorn Jr, Trevor Faust Marcom and Rudy Guerrero. They are harmoniously energizing singing the lovely "One More Walk Around the Garden" and "The Image of Me." Ingénue Emily Kristen Morris is a knockout as the daughter Gia Campbell and has lovely vocal chops singing "All That He Wants Me to Be." Bill Olson as Mayor Manzoni and Michael Doppe as Father Tomasso give engaging performances and have ebullient voices in the prologue "Yankee Doodles Are Coming to Town." Darlene Popovic is enjoyable as Carmelina's servant Rosa. Janine Burgener gave a fine performance as the wife of one of the ex-soldiers.
Choreographer Brittany Danielle has devised some lively dances bordering on tarantellas which are a joy to watch. Hector Zavala's set of the outside of an Italian café is well done, as are costumes by Moises Mora and lighting by Maxx Kurzunski. Greg MacKellan has paced the evening gorgeously and is aided by David Dobrusky, who brings out the beauty of the score on piano.
Carmelina runs through November 18th at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-255-8207 or on line at www.42ndstmoon.org. Coming up next is Rodgers & Hart's Pal Joey, opening on November 28th and running through December 16th.