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A CurtainUp Review
Lone Star Love A New Musical (Also Known As The Merry Wives Of Windsor, Texas)
By Elyse Sommer
I wish I could tell you that the show the Amas Musical Theatre has rustled up adds up to a not-to-be-missed musical theater experience. Lone Star Love's creators have certainly worked long and hard to bring off this big budget Off-Broadway run -- with trial runs at the Alley Theatre in Houston in 1988, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in 1989, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in 1994 and Cleveland's Great Lakes Theatre Festival in 2001). The show is a lively and fun entertainment, but even a cast that includes much topnotch talent and the always welcome Red Clay Ramblers can't transform this foot-stomping Civil War era Merry Wives of Windsor adaptation into more than a one star musical.
The main problem is the source material. The Merry Wives of Windsor ranks among Shakespeare's silliest and least sturdy comedies. Shakespeare lore has it that this was a hastily written response to Queen Elizabeth's request for a play in which Falstaff falls in love. While John L. Haber has faithfully transported all the English Windsor characters to a Texas ranch. What we get is not a clever spoof but plain down-home silliness. Jack Herrick's music has a catchy Western beat but the songs tend to interrupt rather than move the farcical doings forward, and the lyrics, like the story reach elephant ear high corniness.
Jay O. Sanders, a major asset as a fat-suited, bumbling Falstaff, is a dishonorably discharged Confederate Sergeant who with his pals Bardolph, Pistol and Nym (played by three of the versatile Red Clay Ramblers, Chris Frank, Jack Herrick, Clay Buckner) wander into the Texas town that's home to two rich like cattle ranchers, Frank Ford (Gary Sandy) and George Page (Dan Sharkey) and their comely wives (Beth Leavel/ Aggie Ford; Stacia Fernandez/ Margaret Anne Page). True to Falstaff s prediliction for getting into trouble, he proceeds to set his cap for not one but both ladies. The wives being smarter than Falstaff (or for that matter their husbands) see to it that the fat man gets his inevitable comeuppance.
Besides leading to Falstaff's downfall, the many ridiculous disguises and mishaps also end up resolving the Ford and Page family squabbless. Frank Ford learns to trust his Aggie and the Pages realize that their daughter is better off married to Fenton (Clarke Thorelle), the handsome yodeling cowboy she loves than to Papa Page's choice (the Sheriff's dim-witted nephew (the former played by Nick Sullivan, the latter by Brandon Williams) or to the foppish French Physician (Drew McVey) her mother prefers. There's also the amorous doctor's maid and go-between, Miss Quickley (the engagingly animated and high-stepping Harriett D. Foy).
Happily the lame comedy is often interrupted by the well sung tunes and ballads and choreographer Randy Skinner's colorful dances. Derek McLane's two-tiered set and Jane Greenwood's as always handsome costumes further help to make Lone Star Love easy on the ears and eyes. In short, this isn't a disaster. It's just that when George Page's welcoming speech promises that they've taken Billy Bob Shakespeare's tale "and given it some Texas beef" it turns out that the beef isn't top grade.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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