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A CurtainUp Review
A Taste of Things to Come
The plot is predictable as pumpkin pie at a Thanksgiving meal. Set in a quaint Midwestern town during the 50s and 60s, it tells the story of four friends— Joan Smith (real name is Chaia Bayla Frankel), Agnes Crookshank, Dottie O' Farrell, and Connie Olson. They gather every Wednesday afternoon for their cooking club.
Competitive by nature, the foursome decides to enter a Betty Crocker cooking contest with an award of $50,000. They don't win but it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that as they cook and season their dishes, they define themselves and their dreams.
The show's strength comes from the performers, all of whom have Broadway credits, impressive voices and acting know-how. Paige Faure's Joan Smith exudes the authority of a woman who knows what she wants from life and doesn't hesitate to get it. Janet Dacal as the single dynamo Agnes Crookshank, inhabits her character with a sultry Bridgitte Bardot air. Allison Guinn's Dottie O'Farrell, offers comic diversion as the proud Catholic mother of four and stalwart President of the PTA. Autumn Hurlbert literally rounds out the cast as the very pregnant Connie Olson and nervous mother-to-be.
Barsha and Levin serve up a heap of songs to propel this musical forward. Seventeen in all, The opening number, "Cookin' "sets the tone for the show and leaves no doubt as to what a lot of the action will entail. Other songs to relish in Act 1, are "Dear Abby" (Yes, she of the advice column fame) and Agnes' feisty anthem "I'm Outta Here."
Act 2 forwards beyond the cooking club life to a 1967 reunion organized by Joan, now a successful journalis. An edgy curtain-raiser "Ya Dig" segues into her gutsy "The Whomp."
The all-female 4-piece band is right on the money too they perform the original orchestrations (by Barsha with Lena Gabrielle). The musicians are hidden behind the scrim in the first act but revealed in the second.
As directed and choreographed by Lorin Latarro the period look and musical styles are creatively evoked. Latarro's choreography, Steven D. Kemp' s modest set, Nathan W. Scheuer even lighting, and Dana Burkart' s attractive costumes all complement each other and serve the production as a whole.
Don' t miss the blown-up cookbook recipes that line the lobby' s walls! The names alone can evoke visions, if not of sugarplums, of steamy casserole dishes and chilled Jell-O molds: "Tuna and Jell-O Pie," "Spam and Limas' Vegetable Hi-hat" (43 to 46 cents a portion), and "Igloo Meatloaf." To please the gourmet, there are recipes for "Baked Stuffed Salmon" and "Montery Souffle Salad." You can bet that Betty Crocker, that doyenne of cooking, would approve the display.
This musical's key message is about how friends shape and nourish our lives—and also expose us to hot-button issues like race, religion, and sex (think the 50s mentality and Eisenhower era). In fact, the spiciest scene by far comes in Act 1 when Joan turns fourth wall breaking marrator and explains how she learned about the book The Kinsey Report On Human Female Sexuality." A beat later, she returns to the play' s world and begins to comb through the pages of the controversial book with her three friends looking on with amazement.
The show is at its best when it sings and dances , since Barsha and Levin have created types rather than fully fleshed-out characters. That said, as helmed and choreographed by Lorin Latarro and performed by the sparkling talent, it offers an enjoyable holiday diversion.
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A Taste of Things to Come by Debra Barsha and Hollye Levin
Directed an choreographed by Lorin Latarro
Cast: Paige Faure (Joan Smith), Janet Dacal (Agnes Crookshank), Allison Guinn (Dottie O' Farrell), and Autumn Hurlbert (Connie Olson).
Musicians: Gillian Berkowitz (piano/conductor), Ann Klein (electric and acoustic guitar), Barbara Merjan (drums), Sue Williams (upright and electric bass)
Sets: Steven C. Kemp
Costumes: Dana Burkart
Sound: Daniel J. Gerhard
Lighting: Nathan W. Scheuer
Orchestrations and Dance Arrangements: Debra Barsha with Lena Gabrielle
Stage Manager: Veronica Aglow
York Theatre at 619 Lexington Avenue. Tickets: $67.50. Phone 866-811-4111 or online at www.yorktheatre.org
From 11/09/16; opening 11/17/16; closing 12/11/16.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday @ 7pm; Friday & Saturday @ 8pm; Saturday and Sunday matinees @ 2:30pm..
Running time: 2 hours with one intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 11/19/16
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