Strong Performances Highlight SUMMER OF ’42 at BCP

by Walter Bender

Chris McCarrell and William Youmans in SUMMER OF ’42 at Bucks County Playhouse. (Photo credit: Mandee Kuenzle)

Bucks County Playhouse, the historic theatre in New Hope PA, has re-opened with a bang. After a 2-year “hiatus”, the organization has restructured, undergone a beautiful facelift, and has re-dedicated itself to the community. Their latest offering is a musical based on the 1971 movie, Summer of ’42, named (quite appropriately) SUMMER OF ‘42.

SUMMER OF ’42 is a coming-of-age story based on the memoirs of the movie screenwriter Herman Raucher. The story is centered on Hermie (Chris McCarrell), a 15 year old who spends his summer vacation on Nantucket Island with his friends Oscy (F. Michael Haynie) and Benjie (Joey Deppel.) As the boys play on the beach, they see a woman (Chelsea Packard) at a nearby beach house, and Hermie is smitten. The woman’s husband (Ben Mayne) is a soldier who leaves shortly thereafter for active duty, and Hermie subsequently strikes up a friendship with the woman, assisting her with her groceries and later helping her move some items to the attic in her home. The boys are also trying to meet some of the girls on the island. They meet a trio of girls, and convince them to go to the movies. Benjie runs off screaming, and Gloria his “date” (Betsy Hogg) leaves, so Hermie and Oscy go with Miriam (Alyssa Gagarin) and Aggie (Bailey Buntain.) Moving forward, Orcy convinces Hermie to purchase condoms from the local store run by Mr. Sanders (William Youmans.) And the story progresses…there is much too much to put here, and I don’t want to spoil the story for those of you who never have seen the movie.

There is much to like in this production. The set (designed by Wilson Chin and David L. Arsenault) is beautiful, evoking a feel of being on a New England island in the summer. Lighting (designed by Travis McHale) accentuates the feel of the production without overshadowing what is happening on stage. The live orchestra (directed by Paul Masse) is wonderful (and it is a joy to experience live music at the theatre!) Choreographer Lorin Latarro keeps the feel of the ‘40s with her peppy dance. And then there are the performances…

McCarrell as Hermie is wonderful, successfully bringing the youth and burgeoning maturity to his character. Packard as Dorothy, the older woman, is perfect in this part, allowing the audience to share the complete love for her husband, the loneliness of being without him and her grief at his loss. Haynie and Deppel were hilarious as Oscy and Benjie. Gagarin, Buntain and Hogg played multiple roles beautifully, not only in the story as the girls but also as USO girls, and Andrews Sisters-styled trio and other scene transition roles. Mayne was very effective as Dorothy’s husband, working beautifully with Packard. Youmans was very funny as the storekeeper, and did a spot-on Walter Winchell in transition segments.

F. Michael Haynie, Chris McCarrell and Joey Dipple in a scene from SUMMER OF ’42. (Photo credit: Mandee Kuenzle)

Hunter Foster directed this production. I wanted to be sure to mention him, as I loved this production, and he was obviously one of the main reasons. Yet, I cannot point to any one thing (or things) that I can attribute to his direction, other than the overall beauty of the entire production.

One side note…if you have not been back to Bucks County Playhouse since its re-opening, you have to go. The facelift is beautiful, and the commitment and dedication of the people working there is terrific. For first-timers, it’s a great place to go for a great theatre experience.

The show runs through August 11. Find an evening to go enjoy beautiful Buck County and a first rate production.

Based on the novel and screenplay by Herman Raucher
Book by Hunter Foster
Music and Lyrics by David Kirshenbaum
Directed by Hunter Foster
Musical Direction by Paul Masse
Bucks County Playhouse
July 25 – August 11, 2013
70 S. Main Street, New Hope PA 18939
(215) 862-2121


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