If the chorus of a show makes you say, “Wow”, then I think you can pretty well say it’s a top caliber production all the way around. The chorus at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA, fits that bill and ME AND MY GIRL was impressive from Lead to chorus dancer. A dazzling set design by Peter Martino gave you the feeling you were in a Broadway theatre house. Elegant set backdrops, which changed numerous times with quick efficiency, gave this show style and pizzazz. Set in upper crust England sometime in the heyday of graceful manners, the show popped on stage with dazzling costumes; from old lawn tennis knickers to elegant ballroom dance ensembles complete with colorful gowns and formal suits. One costume flaw that bothered me all night was the mustard colored, non laced, solicitor’s shoes. Maybe that’s a metaphor for something, I don’t know.
However, Stephen Casey deserves much credit for the eye candy on stage, for both women and men. Casey was also the director and choreographer of the production. Credit his well orchestrated dance numbers, of which there were many, diverse in style, to thoroughly entertain the opening night audience who braved the nasty weather to attend. The “Lambeth Walk”, probably the most famous of all the forgettable songs in this musical, had a mixture of the well-to-do rich and the lowly street urchins doing the same dance routine as a blending of cultures at the end of Act I. Casey had them “dancing in the aisles” (not the audience), although they loved seeing the actors come down off the stage and mix it up with the paying customers in the Mill’s theatre. Chris Baron’s musical direction was on the mark, although, one suggestion: some of the actors need to hide their wireless microphones on their persons a bit better. With some actors, a glaring microphone near their face just took away from the overall production, while others belted out numbers without you noticing the electronic enhancement.
Back to the chorus or “Company” for a second if I may. Normally, they don’t get much credit in any show. They are there to provide fill for the stage, to make it a “grand production”. But I noticed them; their full voices, their facial expressions, their high kicks to their dance steps. They provided the glue to this show. Cheers to Nicole Calabrese, Leo Altafine, Laura Chaneski, Kyle McClellan, Kristen Smith, Joe Naticchione, Gwen Vigorito and Todd Roman. I am not complimenting them because I couldn’t or didn’t like anything else, on the contrary, the leads and secondary characters were wonderful. I just felt you needed to know that even the last dancer on stage was giving his/her best to give the audience their money’s worth.
Speaking of “money’s worth”, the leads nailed the show with slapstick comedy, facial expressions designed to bring you inward, towards the action, and provided well timed jokes and pranks and such. I guess I would categorize ME AND MY GIRL as a British musical comedy; which means at times, some droll, dry English humor that to an American audience is sometimes a challenge to understand. Heidi from Stockton, NJ, “absolutely enjoyed herself” and will be back to the Playhouse to see more productions if they are anything like this one. Amanda, from Jersey City, NJ, on vacation with her beau, Greg, had never seen a production of ME AND MY GIRL (nor had I), and loved some of the over the top, exaggerated gestures and interactions of all the cast. Vickie, from Allentown, PA, specifically came up to me after the show (how she knew I was reviewing it is a theatre mystery), and said “make sure you tell them just how good it was.” Done, Vickie…just for you.
Catherine Logan plays Sally Smith, the “My Fair Lady” type in this production. (There is a reason for that particular mention, but if you have not seen the show, I don’t want to give away everything…) Logan was cute and peppy and full of life and cockney spunk. I loved watching her on stage and enjoyed her several sole numerical numbers. You can route for her character and definitely route for Logan who I believe has the talent to go beyond local theatre. Jim Lynch, a stalwart actor at the Mill, was the counter male lead; Bill Snibson, who inherits an “Earldom” in British upper class after spending his life as a loveable clown and jokester. Lynch shined in the role; he was bright and energetic and danced and paraded around the stage with great comic timing and style. He was Paul Lynde-like and it worked. Bryan Lesnick, who plays the family solicitor, has an odd little number, called…(wait for it), “The Family Solicitor”. His performance was true to the British style and therefore, quirky. It worked for the most part. Quirky doesn’t begin to explain the role of Gerald Bolingbroke, aptly played by Peter Martino. His wildly overt mannerisms permitted me to laugh AT his character, which you are supposed to do. My compliments to Martino for being a crowd favorite. Lauren Brownstein (Lady Jacqueline) continued to show her ability to seduce men on stage and in the audience, with her temptress actions, body language and sultry voice.
The show was two and a half hours of forgetting your real life and enjoying the traditional Broadway style grand musical. You will not walk out singing any songs but you will take the overall experience home and be glad you were a part of theatrical magic, if for only one night.
ME AND MY GIRL
Book & Lyrics by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose
Music by Noel Gay
September 30 – October 17, 2010
Bucks County Playhouse
70 S. Main Street
New Hope, PA