The Magic is in the Music at Yardley Players’ MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS

by Arlene Price Kohler

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, originally a 1944 film, was adapted from a series of short stories and later a novel written by Sally Benson for the New Yorker Magazine.  The film starred the incomparable Judy Garland as ‘Esther’ and was directed by Vincente Minnelli.  Cast members included Margaret O’Brien as ‘Tootie’, Mary Astor as ‘Mrs. Anne Smith’ and June Lockhart as ‘Rose’.  A very tough act to follow.  The story line has almost no plot but is rather a feel good slice of family life in St. Louis just prior to the 1903 World’s Fair. The musical numbers are exceptional,  some already written like the title song and some written especially for the show.  This is what the golden age of musical was  about,  the MUSIC.  Well that and Judy Garland, of course.

Kristy Davis, flying solo after having assisted on many productions, has captured the very essence of a 1940’s musical , wisely choosing to put the focus on the music and letting the characters lead us along to the next song.

The set, a charming yellow house with a working front door and a nice little front porch plus a huge swing, set against a blue background.  It makes for a lovely opening and alternates with a beautiful interior backdrop and time appropriate living and dining furnishings.  The staging is attractive and has some special touches with cast member utilizing the wide walkway through the audience seating.

But it really is all about the music and what wonderful music it is with some of the area’s finest vocalists.

The Smith Girls: L to R:  Shealyn Davis, Colleen McDonald, Makenna Katz.

The Smith Girls: L to R: Shealyn Davis, Colleen McDonald, Makenna Katz.

Colleen McDonald as Esther possess a stunning operatic voice and great animation when she sings.  No imitation of Judy Garland here – she makes this role her own.  Apparently no diva here either as she reins in that powerful voice on the chorus numbers, which are splendid to say the  least.

Rose, portrayed by Brooke Calderone with her lovely voice, is charming, with just the right amount of bubbly.  The interaction between the two sisters is very believable.

Jacob Kinderman as John Truitt…well, just WOW to that powerhouse of a voice.  A nice solid actor also.

Maureen Hackett as  Mrs Anna Smith is certainly lovely to look at on stage and has some of the best costumes.   (except for a few).  Her voice, again lovely, her soft demeanor befitting a turn of the century lady.  The flaw is in that hair style.   It is hard to tell her from the older daughters  and to find her when she speaks her lines.   A women of that time period would have very long hair not grazing her shoulders and always worn in an up-do day and evening.

Fred Groper, a Kelsey favorite and much underrated actor, is a wonderful Mr. Alonzo Smith, capturing the 1903 ‘dad’  with perfection.  His vocals on his first number were the  best I have heard from him.

Makenna Katz as Agnes does a great job, very believable as a little ‘big’ sister to Tootie.

Walter W. Smyth, a Yardley Players regular delivers a fine performance as Grandpa.  I would have liked to see him wear a vest though, it would be historically accurate even in the house and give more presence to his character.

Charlotte Singh as Katie the Irish housekeeper is wonderful.  Liked your performance, liked the accent, loved your voice.

Shealyn Davis makes a fine little tootie..lots of lines and she not only remembers them but delivers them fairly well.  She is especially charming in the opening and when she sings the ‘Drunk Song’.

Jason Diaz as Warren Sheffield is another fine vocalist  and his acting is not too shabby either.

Brent Tucillo as Lon Smith could have stolen the show if he wasn’t with such strong leads.  A real triple threat here,  dancer actor singer.  He captured the youthful persona of a 1903 college bound youth with natural ease.  His voice is good and his dance abilities a delight to watch.  I did not want the ‘Banjo’ song to end.

The ensemble is strong. Every song was wonderful thanks to Pat Masterman’s musical direction and Kristy casting.  “Noel’ was exquisite, a real treat to my ears.   Using the original version of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ was a smart choice. It really is a little dark but it that is part of what makes the story line work.  I like how the kids got to have some of their talents highlighted; especially notable was Marisa Carroll, one of the young dancers.

Directed by Kristy Davis
July 18-27, 2014
Yardley Players
at Kelsey Theater
Mercer County Community College
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550
609 570 3333

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