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Meet Me in St. Louis
A Holiday Special in Song and On Screen

The Cast
Meet Me In St. Louis, the 1944 Technicolor movie adapted from Sally Benson's nostalgic memoir, The Kensington Stories, is one of those old-style Hollywood movies that painted a rosy picture of small town life as it once was — in this case back in 1903 when the telephone was still a new-fangled invention. With Judy Garland as one of a St Louis family's four daughters, the feel-good story was buoyed by. her rendition of "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Thanks to those songs. — as well as director Vincente Minnelli's immaculately authentic presentation of the period settings and costumes — the movie was tagged a holiday classic by devotees of these old-fashioned feel-good shows populated by Hollywood's top stars and second bananas. The movie was actually better than the Benson stories since it used the Benson stories mainly to tap into the nostalgic charms of a time when life was simpler and mansion-sized family homes were lit by gas.

While the movie itself was adapted from a book, any stage adaptation seemed doomed to unfavorable comparisons to the screen version. The adaptation that did finally made it to Broadway in 1989 was splashier and with more songs. But without Judy Garland and the original ensemble it failed to generate enough magic to last more than 252 performances.

That said, Meet Me in St. Louis retained its standing as a classic period movie with a large fan base. Those devoted fans included the Irish Rep's co-founder, Charlotte Moore, who played Mrs. Smith on Broadway. And in 2007, Moore did manage to capture the movie's period charm and musical pleasures at her intimate Chelsea theater where Curtainup's Gregory Wlson reviewed it. (the review). Praises from him and critics everywhere and audience enthusiasm led to an extended run.

If truth be told, however, I've never been as much of a Meet Me In St Louis enthusiast as Gregory and cinephiles like my daughter-in-law who's seen the movie more than a dozzen times. Therefore Gregory's one quibble about the production he saw rushing through the story too fast to capture its depth actually struck me as an asset, since I didn't think there was all l that much depth to capture.

" For me, the 1944 movie is memorable strictly for its best songs ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" remains one of the top ten Christmas songs long after Judy Garland first sang it), the authentic scenery, gorgeous costumes, and the cast. Being old enough to have seen many of those old Hollywood movies, that cast was a welcome chance to see a 21-year-old Garland as well as a group of long-ago favorites — Margaret O'Brien, a less-Shirley Temple-like but just as adorable child star as Garland's kid sister. . . the glamorous Mary Astor as her mother. . .Harry Davenport as ndpa. . .Marjorie Main as the family's Irish maid.

Of course, in 2007 the actors were actually on stage, and the viewers could be heard humming on their way out the door. Now that the pandemic has struck and we need a dose of holiday cheer more than ever, the incredible can-do-no-matter-what Irish Rep has dished up a new, abridged digital version of the Broadway musical, based on the film amd the Rep's previous production.

Director Moore and her clever team are once again using the Rep's pIoneering technique for presenting a show for online consumption so that it seems as if the actors are actually interacting on stage rather than in Zoom boxes without sets or costumes.

While I liked the use of a narrator to set the scene for each act against a background of graphics depicting Victorian era St. Louis, what worked so impressively for the digital revival of Eugene O'Neill's Touch of the Poet isn't as effective here. The interactions too often feel awkward. Though there's even a kiss between the key romantic characters, the technical wizardry behind it too obvious.

As for the actors, here too, problems outweigh the pluses. To start with the good news. Shereen Ahmed lively and lovely the Judy Garland role and you and you couldn't wish for a finer "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

But while it's common for actors being older than their roles call for, it's quite a stretch for even an outstanding actor and singer like 46-year-old Max Van Essen to pass for a 19-year-old boy. Melisa Errico, who's been a favorite lead in Rep musicals is fine as the still young Smith family matron, she doesn't get to show off her beautiful voice enough.

Moore's choice to stick with the Victorian time frame but bring them visually into the present with a culturally diverse cast is commendable. But for purists any Meet Me in St. Louis must be as true blue to the movie as possible. Still though the digital format and Moore's scaled down script keeps the parties far less populated and without dancing. Still, there's enough enjoyable singing to put you into a merrily little Christmas mood. And you can always extend that mood by watching the original movie on YouTube or a streaming channel like HBO-MAX.

To check out the schedule and reserve your ticket for a performance (free but with donation requested) at the Rep's website below:


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Meet Me in St. Louis
A Holiday Special in Song and On Screen
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Songs by Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane
Based on The Kensington Stories by Sally Benson and the MGM Motion Picture Meet Me in St. Louis
Adapted & Directed by Charlotte Moore
.. Cast: Shereen Ahmed as Esther Smith, William Bellamy as Lon Smith, Rufus Collins as Alonzo Smith, Kerry Conte as Lucille Ballard, Melissa Errico as Anna Smith, Ali Ewoldt as Rose Smith, Kathy Fitzgerald as Katie, Max Von Essen as John Truitt Ian Holcomb as Warren Sheffield.
Music Direction by John Bell
Orchestrations by Josh Clayton
Video editor: Meridith Sommers
Soun design and mix: M. Florian Staab
Lighting design: Michael Gottlieb
December 11, 2020 – January 2, 2021
For schedule check the website--
Running time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, including a 10-minute intermission.
Tickets: Donation suggested
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer

Review:at ©Copyright 2020, Elyse Sommer.
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