BWW Review: THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY at Barrington Stage Company
Barrington Theatre Company's (BSC) 2018 Season opening production "The Royal Family of Broadway", is a wacky, wonderful, and highly entertaining 1920's era madcap musical romp.
Based on the 1927 Play by George S Kaufman and Edna Ferber, it was then adapted by Herman Mankiewicz for the 1930 George Cukor-directed film "The Royal Family of Broadway." It is conceived here as a musical, with a book by Rachel Sheinkin, and music and lyrics by William Finn, the creators of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee". This production was incubated in the BSC Musical Theatre Lab, so Kudos to BSC for doing their part to give life to new works. Far too few, regional theatre companies are willing to invest in new works, and this investment is a vital contribution to the musical theater industry.
The show is effectively directed by John Rando, with creative and dynamic choreography by Joshua Bergasse. The scenery by Alexander Dodge is simply amazing, it creates the 1927 mood and atmosphere perfectly, and with the ability to break apart and move as part of the choreography, it enhances every moment. The costumes designed by Alejo Vietti are stunning and period-perfect, and the lighting by Jeff Croiter was flawless.
The story is a loosely based "send up", of the legendary Broadway family dynasty the Barrymore's. It centers around a fictional but highly entertaining and dysfunctional family of actors in 1927, the Cavendish family: featuring an aging and imperious Grande Dame, a painted portrait, (as a stand-in for the deceased patriarch), a Broadway star looking for her long-lost love, a self-centered boozy leading man who has fled to Hollywood, and a promising ingénue - each with secret longings, and each in search of their own ideal of personal happiness.
At the heart of this whirlwind production: The Matriarch, Fanny, portrayed by Broadway veteran Harriet Harris, with a Katherine Hepburn like charm and verve, and a strong voice and radiant stage presence. Fanny strives to keep the family together and performing onstage, in spite of her daughter Julie, played by Laura Michelle Kelly, who wants to retire from the stage to be married to her long lost love Gilbert, portrayed by Alan H Green, and her granddaughter Gwen, portrayed by Hayley Podschun, who wants to leave the stage to marry her stockbroker fiancé Perry, portrayed by A.J. Shively, an excellent dancer, and showman, and settle down to a normal life as a housewife and mother in Westchester, NY. The rest of the family consists of Fanny's drama-seeking and self-absorbed son Tony, hilariously portrayed by Will Swenson, and Fanny's far less talented brother Bert, portrayed with great comic timing by Arnie Burton, and his wife Kitty, portrayed by the very talented Kathryn Fitzgerald. The family goes their separate ways to pursue their work and lives, but in the end, Fanny convinces them all to reunite for one last show and the Cavendish family are once again the toast of Broadway.
Among the stand-outs in the cast was Laura Michelle Kelly as Julie, her voice and acting were flawless and her solo of "Absolutely not" was a show stopper. Also, a stand-out, was Hayley Podschun, who not only has a superb voice but is an excellent dancer especially when partnering with Mr. Shively in numbers like "Baby Let's Stroll". Finally, another Broadway, veteran Alan H. Green as Gilbert, was near perfect. I have seen Mr. Green in other roles and he always gives one hundred percent to each character, he has incredible vocal technique and control, and is incredibly generous and believable, in every scene with his co-stars.
The chorus was excellent throughout especially in the big tap numbers, and kudos to the crew for a very well executed performance.
If you are looking for a funny, touching, and rollicking good time at the theatre, look no further than The Royal Family of Broadway at Barrington Stage Company.
When you go: "The Royal Family of Broadway"
Where: Barrington Stage Company Boyd/Quinson Mainstage, 30 Union St., Pittsfield, Mass.
Running time: Two hours, 30 minutes; one intermission
Performances Continue 7 p.m. Tuesday, 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 2 and 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday, through July 7. Some performance times vary from July 1 to 7.
Tickets: $15 to $75
Info: 413-236-8888 or barringtonstageco.org