Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope has a different kind of holiday offering this year – MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS: A LIVE RADIO PLAY. This is an adaptation of the 1944 MGM movie that has become a favorite of many generations. For those who are fans of the Judy Garland/Margaret O’Brien classic, you will definitely not be disappointed by this production.
MEET ME IN ST LOUIS: A LIVE RADIO PLAY takes place in the studio of fictional radio station WBUX. The stage is decorated as a festive sound stage, with 5 old style radio mics are spaced evenly downstage, next to the foley (sound effect) area. Prior to the show, the cast comes onstage, checks props, etc, then comes down into the audience to mingle, chatting with audience members, juggling, doing card tricks, and playing a guitar among other things. As the show opens, Freddie Fillmore (Jay Russell) welcomes us and introduces the rest of the radio cast: Ethel Potter (Victoria Cook), Butch Popkin (Garth Kravitz), Lana Sherwood (Lauren Molina), Sally Applewhite (Chelsea Packard), Jake Laurents (Geoff Packard) and pianist (and music director) Phil Reno. And the play begins…
The story is pretty basic for the era…girl sees boy, girl falls in love, girl and boy have a misunderstanding, almost lose each other, and love conquers all in the end. Add in a couple subplots (girl’s sister has her own problems with her boyfriend, dad wants to move the family from St. Louis to New York, etc), and it makes for a very lively evening.
The cast of this show is first-rate…amazing voices, very skilled in keeping multiple characters recognizable, and great versatility. (Special mention of Lauren Molina’s characterizations of 7-year old Tootie and the Irish maid Katie, both visually and verbally hilarious!) Many of the cast members double as additional musicians during the show, adding percussion, strings, and flute to many numbers. Several of the performers share foley duties as well, with terrific results…great sound effects to accent the vocal performances. And, speaking of the vocals, the singing voices (after all, this IS a musical!) are amazing…very relaxed and natural delivery, gorgeous voices, and selling the songs beautifully.
The set of this show is wonderful…a backdrop provides scene settings (a la old time stage shows that did it with a poster on a tripod.) The stage (and theatre) are subtly decorated to acknowledge the holiday season, and provide a beautiful surprise at the end of the show. Director Gordon Greenberg keeps the pace up, with the 90-minute production moving along smoothly. The show ends almost too soon, leaving the audience wanting to hear more. Choreography by Lorin Latarro was skilled, keeping the cast within range of the “mics”, yet giving a visually pleasing flow to the cast’s movements. Lighting by Paul Miller accentuated the show without upstaging the action. Costumes (Nicole V. Moody) were colorful and period-precise.
If you had any reservations about coming to see this show, wondering how interesting a radio play would be, come see this wonderful production. It’s a great introduction to the season, and a visual and musical masterpiece.
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS: A LIVE RADIO PLAY
Book by Hugh Wheeler, Songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine
Based on the MGM motion picture MEET ME IN ST LOUIS
Adapted by Joe Landry
Directed by Gordon Greenberg
Musical Direction by Phil Reno
December 4-29, 2013
Bucks County Playhouse
70 S Main Street
New Hope, PA 18938