BWW Review: GOIN' TO THE CHAPEL at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre
On Friday, November 24, I had the pleasure of seeing GOIN' TO THE CHAPEL at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin, CT. This jukebox musical written by Valerie Fagan is directed by Kris McMurray, with a live band, the Wipeouts, under Musical Director Nathaniel Baker, performing off-stage, left of the stage, providing accompaniment for the cast.
The set features a jukebox, a table, and décor that sets the tone of a 1950s/1960s feel, to accompany the music from that time frame, including very well known songs, and hidden gems that are lesser known.
The audience gets drawn into the show right away with musical numbers "Rock Around the Clock," "Who Put the Bomp," and "Rock N' Roll is Here to Stay," starting things up, as group numbers performed together by 5 of the 6 cast members, including Tony Galli as Johnny, Maria Pompile as Suzy, Kristin Iovene as Judy, Carleigh Cappetta Schultz as Robin, and Rick Bennett as Kenny.
The sixth cast member, Jon Escobar, makes a strong entrance, taking the stage by storm with a powerful rendition of "Real Wild Child," establishing his character, Eddie, and making his presence known loud and clear, bringing forth energy that radiates out to the audience, showing that Jon Escobar is having a great time playing Eddie. His facial expressions always reflect the character's emotions in an unmistakable way, even during times when Eddie is not the central focus on stage. Jon Escobar impresses the audience, again, singing, "Runaround Sue," yet again, on the Connecticut Cabaret stage. Eddie captures the romantic attention of Suzy rather quickly, even though Suzy had claimed to love her boyfriend, Johnny.
Judy is a fascinating character, initially coming across as having an agenda to break up Johnny and Suzy, by speaking unkindly about Johnny to Suzy, and about Suzy to Johnny. I anticipated Judy trying to steal Johnny, and succeeding, during a party thrown by Suzy, putting Suzy in tears, as she sings about how Judy and Johnny made her cry at her party. That, however, does not happen, nor does that song appear in this musical. A brilliant aspect of this story is that as obvious as something like that may have seemed given the character names, the audience can neither predict what will happen next, nor what song will accompany it. Rather than the show going in that direction, Judy aggressively tries to seduce Eddie, while singing "Fever" to him, even though Eddie is not initially reciprocating Judy's advances.
Rick Bennett steals the show as Kenny, who experiences a drastic personality change, growing in confidence, due to taking Love Potion #9. He makes some rapid erratic movements, under the influence of Love Potion #9, while singing that song, followed up by dancing to "Tequila" in a way that keeps the entire audience entertained and eager about what he will do next, as he proclaims the word "Tequila" with intense feeling, consistent with Kenny's new mental state. He continues with singing "All Shook Up," now drawing positive attention and apparent romantic interest from Judy and Robin who had derided him prior to his taking of Love Potion #9. Rick Bennett continues to draw the audience's attention during later musical numbers, even when Kenny isn't singing lead, by facial expressions, movements, and gestures that make Kenny the most likeable and intriguing of the six characters. Rick Bennett makes it clear that he greatly enjoys playing the role of Kenny, while maximizing the quality of that character.
A comical highlight involves a drag race between Eddie and Johnny, where they are running around onstage, each with Flintstone-like cars around them, while the band plays "Wipeout." They are racing for Suzy who is very fickle, unable to choose between Eddie and Johnny, yet acting like she has the right to get mad at Judy or Robin if they show interest in either, as if Suzy has the right to simultaneously hold an exclusive claim on both Eddie and Johnny.
The funniest moment occurs when the song "Dominique" is performed. Robin and Judy start singing the song, while Kenny, Eddie, and Johnny form a circle around Suzy, dancing around her, while making amusing facial expressions. Kenny, Eddie, and Johnny eventually add even more humor by singing along, too. The entire audience was laughing due to the excellent acting performance on this song, by all six cast members. Perhaps most impressive during this number, however, is that Maria Pompile manages to stay in character, maintaining an upset facial expression, despite the farcical activity that is quite literally surrounding her.
With three male characters, and three female characters, the possibility exists that the story would end with three different couples forming. Is that how it actually ends, though? If so, who ends up with who? Which couple is "goin' to the chapel," if any couple is even together by the end of the story? You'll have to come to the show to find out, and have a great time, like I did! GOIN' TO THE CHAPEL is scheduled to continue to run at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre, in Berlin, CT, every Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 P.M. through December 16. For tickets, go to http://ctcabaret.com/.