A Pessimist’s Guide to Optimism?—The Latest Offering at Act II

by Ellen Wilson Dilks

Ambler’s Act II Playhouse is currently offering an evening with Philly’s favorite musical comedy performer Mary Martello in a cabaret entitled THE RELUCTANT OPTIMIST.     Fresh off her stint in Annie at the Media Theatre, Ms. Martello has created a pastiche of patter (including a brief history of Ambler) and song to warm up a winter’s night.

Mary Martello stars in THE RELUCTANT OPTIMIST at Act II Playhouse in Ambler, PA through January 23.

She brings a formidable resume to the stage—including having raised four children while pursuing a career in the theatre, a daunting task in and of itself.  Starting at the tender age of seven, Ms. Martello has performed in Virginia, New Jersey and New York, as well as in her home state of Michigan.     She has been part of the Philly theatre scene for a couple of decades now, performing with every major company in the area.   I first encountered her talents in a hilarious production of Bat Boy—the Musical at 1812 Productions.  I also caught her in Damn Yankees at the Walnut and as Mrs. Lovett in the Arden’s production of Sweeney Todd.  The woman has chops.

Ms. Martello is joined by musical director/pianist Eric Ebbenga, who deftly accompanies her thru this hour plus exploration of optimism.  The two have worked together on nine productions and their symbiosis is apparent.   A two-time Barrymore winner for his Musical direction, Mr. Ebbenga is clearly tuned in to Ms. Martello’s style and rhythm.  It is fun to watch these two pros totally enjoying what they do.

Using personal anecdotes, Ms. Martello ties together a very disparate group of songs to take the audience on a lovely musical journey.  Starting out with Roger & Hammerstein’s A Cockeyed Optimist from South Pacific, she easily flows into Gershwin, Kander & Ebb and Cole Porter, and then deftly winds her way to If Love Were All by Noel Coward.

Clearly the comedic tunes, like Adelaide’s Lament from Guys & Dolls, are her forte, but she brings an actor’s touch to each tune in the piece.  The attention to detail is evident in every bit of phrasing.

If you’re looking for a lovely winter pick-me-up, I can recommend heading to Act II to spend some time with Mary Martello.   But hurry—the show only runs til January 23rd.

Conceived and performed by Mary Martello
Jan 12-23, 2011
Act II Playhouse
56 E. Butler Avenue 
Ambler, PA 19002
(215) 654-0200

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