Palm Beach Dramaworks Presents THE MOST HAPPY FELLA in Concert, Now thru 7/27
Love blooms in Napa Valley for an aging, unprepossessing grape farmer and a young, world-weary waitress in Frank Loesser's achingly romantic The Most Happy Fella, opening tonight, July 18 (8pm) at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre. William Michals, who triumphed in the title role of last season's Man of La Mancha, returns to Palm Beach Dramaworks to play the Italian immigrant farmer Tony Esposito in this concert production. The show, which runs through July 27, is directed by Clive Cholerton, with musical direction by Howard Breitbart.
The Most Happy Fella is based on Sidney Howard's 1925 Pulitzer Prize-winning play They Knew What They Wanted, the story of two people so desperate to love and be loved that they almost ruin their chance for happiness. It is Loesser's most ambitious work: he wrote the libretto as well as the score, retaining Howard's basic plot while adding new characters including Tony's sister, Marie, and a secondary comic couple, Cleo and Herman. It took Loesser four years to write the piece, which features more than 40 songs ranging in style from soaring operatic arias and duets including "My Heart Is So Full of You" and "Somebody Somewhere," to rousing musical comedy numbers such as "Big D" and "Standing on the Corner." Although there are those who categorize The Most Happy Fella as an opera, Loesser called the show "a musical with a lot of music."
The Most Happy Fella opened to rave reviews on May 3, 1956 and ran for 676 performances. The original Broadway production starred Robert Weede as Tony and Jo Sullivan, who would go on to marry Loesser, as Rosabella. The show was revived to great acclaim on Broadway in 1992, a production that originated at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut. The score was reduced to a two-piano arrangement, and that version will be heard in this concert presentation.
William Michals, one of musical theatre's finest baritones, was last seen on Broadway as Emile de Becque in the landmark revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific at Lincoln Center. He made his Broadway debut as The Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and later returned to the show to play Gaston. Other credits include Chauvelin in the national tour of The Scarlet Pimpernel, Javert in LES MISERABLES, Billy Flynn in Chicago, Harold Hill in The Music Man, Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music, and the title role in The Phantom of the Opera. Making her PBD debut as Rosabella is Jessica Hershberg, who most recently alternated as Cinderella in the Broadway production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella.
Joining Michals and Hirschberg are Jim Ballard as Joe, the handsome, restless foreman; Jeni Hacker as Marie; Laura Hodos as Cleo, Rosabella's best friend; and Shane Tanner as Herman. The cast also includes Bill J. Adams, Oscar Cheda, Ken Clement, Matthew Korinko, Abby Perkins, Roland Rusinek, Elizabeth Sackett, Stephanie White, and Anthony Zoeller.
All musical concerts are performed with limited instrumental accompaniment and minimal staging and design. These full-length presentations include both the score and the book.
Palm Beach Dramaworks is a non-profit, professional theatre and is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the South Florida Theatre League, Southeastern Theatre Conference, Florida Professional Theatres Association, Florida Theatre Conference, and the Palm Beach County Cultural Council.
The Most Happy Fella will play 12 performances, including a specially priced preview on Thursday, July 17. Evening performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm; matinees are Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2PM. All tickets are $40.00. The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, at 201 Clematis Street. For ticket information contact the box office at (561) 514-4042; summer hours are 10AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday. Visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org for the extended box office schedule during the runs of Zorba! and The Most Happy Fella, and for 24-hour ticketing.