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BWW Review: JUST DESSERTS at Legacy Theatre

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A MUSICAL BAKE-OFF

BWW Review: JUST DESSERTS at Legacy Theatre

On Saturday, June 19, I had the pleasure of seeing JUST DESSERTS at the Legacy Theatre, in Stony Creek, CT (Branford, CT on the GPS.) This was my first experience in this lovely, primarily residential area that includes a marina overlooking the Long Island Sound. The area has a pleasant New England feel to it, perfect to draw people for theatre on a nice summer (technically late spring) day.

The Legacy Theatre has a nice new building smell to it, upon entering, and an intimate yet professional vibe on the inside with spacious seats, fine acoustics, and excellent views of the stage.

The show JUST DESSERTS is an original musical, with book and lyrics by Barbara Campbell and music by Brad Ross. The show is directed by Bert Bernardi with music directed by David Bell.

The stellar cast has their singing accompanied by a solo piano, visibly hidden from the audience. Based on gestures by the cast during the curtain call, I assume the piano is located behind the curtain on stage left, unless the cast was acknowledging someone else who remained hidden from the audience. Most of the songs are group numbers, but the cast members, all of whom have nice singing voices, all have solo leads on at least one song each. The songs are mostly originals, but contain some lyrical parody. The musical genre is consistently traditional showtune style, throughout the production, without exception.

While the show features only six cast members, all six play multiple roles during the show, despite each having a primary character. I was impressed by all six cast members, both in their main roles, and in the additional roles that they played. The stage chemistry between all six cast members is tight, playing off each other very believably. The fourth wall is not technically broken, in the strictest sense, but audience applause was plentiful, both after the musical numbers, and at other parts of the show in which we essentially play the role of a studio audience within the show, clapping where appropriate.

The story is set during a Saturday afternoon in the summer, at a county fair. An annual baking contest has been narrowed down to five finalists who each are given three timed baking tasks with finished baked goods being judged by a panel of judges and being scored on a points scale, with the winner being whoever receives the most total points at the end of these remaining three rounds. Each of the five contestants has a back story that is revealed to the audience during the show, with the remaining cast members additionally playing the roles of different characters within each main contestant characters' families.

Jimmy Johansmeyer is excellent in the role of Zack, the host of the contest. He nails the voice and vocal tones of a game show host and announcer.

Perry Liu phenomenally plays Lou, the only male contestant, an Italian man from Brooklyn. The intrigue of this character and the show's entire storyline is enhanced by the suspicion of another character that Lou may be connected with the mob. The mystery of this character and how it would play out was, to me, a crucial point of interest in this show.

Mary Ann Frank brilliantly plays Mildred, a previous four time winner of this annual baking contest. Her integrity comes into question, as it becomes suspected that she would be willing to break the rules to win this contest again, which can also lead the audience to question whether her previous four victories were genuinely on the up and up, either. One of the highlights of the show is her facial reaction to the judges' score given to her after the first round of the competition.

Susan Kulp is convincing as Jean, a nurse whose character has a significant physical transformation, after a makeover between the first act and second act. Jean starts out with low confidence, but gains confidence as the show goes on.

Mary Mannix is entertaining as Brandy, a perky and over-the-top comical contestant who isn't afraid to speak her mind.

The youngest and most intriguing contestant is Emma who is wonderfully performed by Alyssa Bianca. Emma is suspicious of the other contestants, yet often seems rather shady herself, in a way that keep the audience's interest and suggests that she may have something to hide.

Does Emma have something to hide? If so, what? Is Lou really with the mob? If so, are any of the other contestants on his hit list? If so, why? Will Mildred compete with honesty and integrity? Has she ever won this contest without breaking the rules? Will Jean take the contest seriously, or leave to spend time with family? Will Brandy be able to focus on the contest, or even be permitted to remain in the contest, after she experiences a life-changing event, but in a context that violates contest rules? Does this contest mean something deeper than the contest itself to any or all of these five remaining contestants? Who wins? Come to the show to find out.

I highly recommend JUST DESSERTS, which is scheduled to continue to run at the Legacy Theatre in Stony Creek, CT, through June 27, 2021. For times and tickets, please go to https://www.legacytheatrect.org/.


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