BWW Review: MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS at Connecticut Theatre Company
Sometimes it a simple, yet beautiful show is exactly what the doctor ordered. With the hustle and bustle that comes this time of year, it is important to stop and remember the important things in life - family, home, and loved ones around us. That is what makes Connecticut Theatre Company's fantastic production of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS the perfect escape to cure the holiday blues.
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (Book by Hugh Wheeler, Songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane), based on the 1944 film of the same name (starring Judy Garland) tells the story of the Smith family at the turn of the century in St. Louis, MO. The Smiths are an average middle class family with four daughters - Rose (Janet Aldrich), Esther (Melody Zielke), Agnes (Rory Allen), and Tootie (Alison Svelan) and their brother Lon (Galen Donovan). They live with their mother, Anna (Karli Gilbertson), Father (Dane Millette), Grandfather (Mark Moyle), and housekeeper Katie (Jodi Dickson). The play follows the Smiths through seasons of change including Lon heading off to Princeton, Rose and Esther both dealing with their love interests Warren Sheffield (Omar Walters) and John Truitt (Travis Karl Karas) respectively, and the whole family adjusting to the possibility of having to uproot and move to New York. All this happens as the town prepares for the
upcoming 1904 World's Fair, and it is all anyone can talk (or sing, for that matter) about.
Connecticut Theatre Company has a history of presenting stellar productions with standout performances, and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS is no exception. The first worth noting is Janet Aldrich's performance as the eldest sister, Rose. She is headstrong with a caring demeanor and Ms. Aldrich lends a lovely voice to the role. Karli Gilbertson also shines in her role as Anna, the matriarch of the family. She has a few chances to show off a glorious soprano in Anna's standout number "You'll Hear A Bell". And while there are too many other highlight performances to call out here (such as Galen Donavan's
spirited dance number, Jodi Dickson's comedic turn as Katie), the standout for the evening, by far, is Melody Zielke as Esther. Ms. Zielke channels Judy Garland in each and every number and delivers roof raising performances including the title song and audience favorite "The Trolley Song". She lights up the stage and is truly magnificent. are so many high points worth noting in this production.
Duane and Erin Campbell's direction is strong and keeps the pace of the show moving forward well, especially for a show with such a large cast. Jeff Sirois (Music Director) leads a talented orchestra in bringing the beautiful Martin and Blane score to life on stage and does a great job guiding the cast in delivering some excellent musical performances. Kristen Norris' choreography is fun and frolicky and show off Rose Masselli Morse's period costumes well. Michael J. Bane's singular set transitions smoothly from the Smith home (the primary setting) the imagined Trolley and back with ease.
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS may not be a household name when it comes to stage musicals (many more may be familiar with the movie), but that shouldn't stop someone from checking out Connecticut Theatre Company's production. It is touching, heartwarming, exciting and warm and showcases performances that you won't want to miss. And as I said at the close of my review for CTC's production of LITTLE WOMEN, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS is a wonderful show to take in during the holidays - a time when we are warmed by the glow of the season and when many are reminded of the deep and unbreakable love of family.
Connecticut Theatre Company is currently presenting MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS through December 22nd (Fridays & Saturdays at 7pm, Sundays at 2pm) at The Repertory Theatre, 23 Norden Street, New Britain, CT 06051. Tickets are available at the door or online at www.ConnecticutTheatreCompany.org
All photos: Connecticut Theatre Company's production of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS