The Caldwell Theatre Company opens their 30th anniversary season with the crowd pleasing musical comedy Where's Charley?. The show was able to open on schedule despite the destruction and loss of power left by hurricane Wilma which has hindered so many of Florida's professional theatre companies. This lighthearted and fluffy musical may be insubstantial, but is well timed, when exactly what the community needs is this sort of cheerful romp. Cheers to the Caldwell for persevering in the midst of the hurricane mayhem.
Based on the play Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas, Where's Charley? features a book by George Abbott, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Set in Victorian England, it is the story of mischievous college student Charley Wykeham. He and best friend Jack Chesney have their hearts set on two respectable young ladies named Amy Spettigue and Kitty Verdun. But the two ladies are the wards of Amy's strict uncle, Mr. Spettigue, who watches over them like a hawk. In accordance with conventions of the time period, it would be inappropriate for the gentleman to entertain the ladies without a chaperone present. So Charley and Jack seize the opportunity of the impending visit of Charley's Aunt to schedule an outing with Amy and Kitty. Charley's recently widowed and extraordinarily wealthy aunt, Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez, will act as their chaperone. When her visit is delayed, however, and the girls have already arrived, the two men decide to have Charley, dressed in matronly costume and wig, pose as his own Aunt to get them to stay. Comedy ensues when Mr. Spettigue attempts to court Charley's Aunt to gain her wealth, not knowing it is Charley, and the real Aunt arrives amidst the confusion. Since Charley cannot be two people at the same time, of course the questions occurs: "Where's Charley?" A happy ending for all (except Mr. Spettigue) is in store when Charley wins Amy, Jack wins Kitty, and Charley's Aunt wins the heart of Jack's father.
Where's Charley? is probably best known for the song "Once In Love With Amy." Unfortunately, the rest of the music in the show is probably the weakest of Frank Loesser's works. The tunes are largely forgettable and clumsy. In another setting, a full orchestra may have helped to gloss over the deficiencies of the score, but the Caldwell uses a minimal live ensemble. Costumes for this show are especially nice, with the exception of the Brazilian number at the close of a lengthy first act. And the sets, though sometimes lack in dimension, are charming.
The book for Where's Charley? has held up well indeed with the passage of time. The success of the piece truly lies in the hands of finding the right Charley. When the show opened on Broadway in 1948, it starred the talented Ray Bolger. The Caldwell is lucky to have found a wonderful Charley in Josh Grisetti. He is delightful. He is also well matched by a pert Irene Adjan as Amy Spettigue. Lauren Shealy as Amy's friend, Kitty Verdun, has a lovely, radiant quality on stage and a beautiful singing voice. Dennis Craeghan as Jack's father, Sir Francis Chesney, is warm and austere. And John Felix deliciously sputters with anger and indignation as the villain of this piece, Mr. Spettigue. The best part of the evening is the audience sing-along section of "Once In Love With Amy". What fun!
Where's Charley? will be appearing at The Caldwell Theatre through December 18, 2005. For tickets to this and other shows, contact the Caldwell at 561-241-7432 or online at www.caldwelltheatre.com. The Caldwell Theatre Company is a professional theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. The theatre is located at 7873 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, FL 33487-1640 in the Levitz Plaza. Look for the theatres' proposed relocation to their new space in the fall of 2006.
* Indicates member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actor's and Stage Managers.
+ Indicates member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc.