Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Also see Mark's review of 33 1/3
The predecessors to vaudeville were mainly held in venues that served alcohol and catered to the whims of male clientele who demanded more lewd levels of entertainment. This type of burlesque entertainment was hardly suitable for family viewing. On October 24, 1881, former circus ringmaster turned theater manager Tony Pastor debuted on stage what he billed as the first "polite" variety program at New York's Fourteenth Street Theatre. Gone was the sale of liquor and bawdy material that had been prevalent in the other venues. This was family fare that the entire clan could enjoy together. The entertainment experiment was so successful that soon other managers signed on and a nationwide system of entertainment was formed.
It was Benjamin Franklin Keith who later partnered with Edward Franklin Albee II to build an empire of coast to coast theaters. This vaudeville circuit employed thousands of entertainers who would tour the country for up to two years at a time. The performers had to follow strict codes of ethics in order to perform. There was even a code of ethics set for the audience so as not to encourage off-color material from sneaking on stage at the encouragement of the theater patrons.
The Porthouse Theatre production of Tintypes takes the modern audience back to these halcyon days of pure and tasteful entertainment. Five performersDevin Pfeiffer as Charlie, Shamara Costa as Susannah, Mavis Jennings as Teddy, Samantha Kennett as Emma, and Josy Soriano as Annaput on a two hour display of singing, dancing, pantomime and skits designed to entertain and delight. The show was originally conceived by Mary Kyte with Mel Marvin and Gary Pearle. The musical arrangements are by Mel Marvin and orchestration and vocal arrangements are by John McKinney.
In total, 47 numbers or portions of numbers by America's most well known songwriters of the era are represented as various vignettes depicting American life from 1891 to 1920. While many familiar patriotic pieces such as "Yankee Doodle Boy," "Stars and Stripes Forever," "Meet Me in St. Louis," "America the Beautiful," and "You're a Grand Old Flag" are in evidence, other conventional works such as "I Don't Care," "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," "Waltz Me Around Again, Willie," "In My Merry Oldsmobile" and "The Maiden With the Dreamy Eyes" are present. There is also a smattering of traditional works such as "Wayfaring Stranger," "Shortnin' Bread" and "Wabash Cannonball" to connect back to an even earlier time of American history. And there is an appearance by Teddy Roosevelt.
The cast in this production is absolutely terrific. With authentic costuming by Susan Williams, wonderful scenic design by Ryan Patterson, and crisp sound design by Parker Strong, Jennifer Korecki's direction keeps the show buzzing along at a breakneck pace. The thin storyline is quite easy to follow and adds greatly to the entertainment value of the show. The six-piece orchestra does an amazing job of filling the venue with solid sound while not drowning out the singers.
The only minor suggestion one could make would be for the reprise of "The Yankee Doodle Boy" to end the show on an inspired note. Instead, it is followed by two nondescript numbers ("Toyland" and "Smiles") which would have been better placed prior to the "Yankee Doodle" number.
While the July 4th holiday brings out a plethora of patriotic concerts and shows, Tintypes manages to strike a nice balance of contemporary and rousing martial music-making for an extremely fine evening of family entertainment. Bring a picnic dinner to enjoy on the spacious grounds surrounding the theater and prepare to go home feeling good.
Tintypes, through July 20, 2019, at the Porthouse Theatre located, Blossom Music Center, 1145 W. Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls OH. For tickets and information, visit www.porthousetheatre.com or call 330-672-3884.