Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Also see Richard's review of The Addams Family
I won't go into the plot but will simply state that it's about two students at turn of the century Oxford University who decide that one of them should pose as a female chaperone in order to entertain young ladies in their dormitory room. What happens after that is a madcap mélange of quick changes, fast talking, marriage proposals, compromising conditions, and raucous merriment.
Where's Charley? is not revived much today, maybe because it takes the right actor to play Charley's aunt in drag. 42nd Street Moon has found one with Keith Pinto superbly playing the aunt from Brazil, where the nuts come from. Where Ray Bolger played the role as pure camp, Keith Pinto plays him more like a hustler. This is an amiable show that takes us back to the days when musicals were made to make us laugh.
the Frank Loesser score may not as good as his Guys and Dolls, but it is agile and wily with such decisive tunes as "Make a Miracle," "My Darling, My Darling," "The New Ashmolean Marching Society and Students' Conservatory Band," and the beguiling classic "Once In Love with Amy."
Dyan McBride has assembled a top notch cast in beautiful Victorian period costumes by Rebecca Valentino and choreographer Nancy Dobbs Owen's whimsical stepping in the "Pernambuco" and "New Ashmolean..." numbers. Hector Zavala, who will be leaving the company to be a television director in Mexico City, has devised a simple attractive set.
Keith Pinto has made this role his own and he has the talent to suggest that he's both in love with Amy and mildly sidetracked by female impersonation. He is excellent trading punches with the over-amorous Spettigue, played splendidly by Scott Hayes. His take on "Once in Love with Amy" with the audience going in on the second verse is beautifully accomplished.
James Bock as Jack Chesney and Jennifer Mitchell as Kitty Verdun are flawlessly matched young lovers. Both have outstanding voices on "My Darling, My Darling." Abby Sammons is first rate as the idealistic, feisty Amy. Stephanie Rhoads is marvelous as the real aunt Dona Lucia D'Alvadorez, especially with her pitch perfect voice singing "Lovelier than Ever" with John-Elliott Kirk, who also has a pleasurable singing voice.
Stephen Vaught, Noelani Neal, Tim Wagner, Roy Eikleberry, Zac Schuman, Katherine Leyva, and Maria Mikheyenko also give uniquely fetching performances in their smaller roles. Lauren Mayer on piano makes the Loesser melodies come alive. Dyan McBride's directing is smooth, and she brings out the humor of the musical. Even the chase scenes between the aunt and Spettigue are well done.
Where's Charley? runs through May 17th, 2015, at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-255-8207 or visit www.42ndStMoon.org. Coming up next is Inventing Champagne, the Alan Jay Lerner salon starring Nancy Dussault for two nights only at the Eureka Theatre on May 11-12.