Review: RAPUNZEL at Downtown Cabaret Theatre

For a children's audience

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On Saturday, February 12, at noon, I had the pleasure of seeing yet another Phill Hill masterpiece, at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, in Bridgeport, CT, a musical adaptation of the classic story of RAPUNZEL. This is the story of a princess who is trapped by an enchantress, high up in a castle, waiting for her unknown male hero to rescue her. This adaptation also contains elements of another legendary story involving a sword and a stone. Phill Hill writes in a comedic manner that simultaneously entertains adults and children, while giving the entire cast fun roles to portray.

Ashley DePascale directs this phenomenal ensemble cast of eight that includes herself. The rest of the cast should also be familiar to most regular patrons at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, especially for the performances geared towards a children's audience, like this one. Robert Peterpaul, Cassie Carroll, Andrea Pane, Corinne Marshall, Carolyn Savoia, Jason Parry, and Karen Hanley all shine, along with Ashley DePascale, in their respective roles.

Robert Peterpaul stars as Artie. While Artie is not the name of the typical male lead affiliated with Rapunzel, with some thought, one can see how the other story that is brilliantly tangled up with this one has a male lead that could potentially have been known by that name in some circles at some time. As always, Robert Peterpaul makes the most of his role. The reaction from the audience, when the fourth wall is broken from stage makes it clear that his portrayal of Artie has won them over.

Artie is the squire to Flynn Ryder, who is wonderfully portrayed by Andrea Pane. Flynn Ryder, in this adaptation has the arrogance of Beauty & the Beast's Gaston combined with the cowardice of Shrek's Farquaad. When Flynn Ryder and Artie initially set out on their quest to rescue Rapunzel, it becomes evident that the often stereotyped roles of the valiant hero and the bumbling sidekick are reversed, in that the Flynn Ryder is the bumbling one and Artie is the valiant one. Robert Peterpaul and Andrea Pane play off each other excellently to create this unique dynamic shift, making audience members hope that Artie is the character who ends up romantically involved with Rapunzel.

Cassie Carroll stars as Rapunzel, the central female protagonist, and title character, a highly likeable princess who the audience hopes to see rescued by someone decent and highly likeable, too. Artie comes across as this hoped for rescuer, even before he and Rapunzel meet. Once they meet, the clear chemistry between the characters, and the cast members portraying them, makes the audience hope to see those characters become a couple. In acting and singing, everything about Cassie Carroll's dynamics with Robert Peterpaul resonates as perfectly matched. It was an excellent casting decision to have Robert Peterpaul and Cassie Carroll playing those respective roles, opposite each other.

Carolyn Savoia shows us another wonderful side of her myriad of acting talents in the role of Euclid, who is Rapunzel's talking bird friend. Animal sidekicks to human protagonists can often be the voices of reason in children's shows or movies. Euclid is an example of that, in this show. This is a highly likeable and entertaining character that commands the audience's attention with a very pleasant puppet bird with flapping wings. Carolyn Savoia clearly has a lot of fun with this role that she maximizes with her highly talented portrayal.

Corinne Marshall plays the villain role superbly, yet, again, as Esmerelda, the enchantress. When she breaks the fourth wall, from stage, to address the audience, she gains the children's attention. This show begins with Esmerelda coming across as somewhat of a narrator from within, and really draws in the audience, making the children feel like more than just audience members, but part of the show, too. Corinne Marshall's powerful singing voice is also showcased in this show.

Jason Parry and Karen Hanley play Hamish and Haggis, respectively, the real parents of Rapunzel who want their daughter to be rescued. They assign Flynn Rider to the task, with Artie as his sidekick. Jason Parry shows us even more of his talents with a convincing Scottish burr. Karen Hanley shares her singing talents in her duet with Jason Parry who also shows spot on vocals.

Ashley DePascale has fun with her role of Argyle who works for Hamish and Haggis, and also plays some instruments.

One of my favorite parts about the Downtown Cabaret Theatre's performances geared towards children's audiences is finding out what songs will appear in the show. That is one part of the playbill that I never look at prior to seeing the show, so that I can be surprised when watching it, as if I am at a live music concert, anticipating the set list. I have decided, in this review, that I don't want to spoil that surprise for anyone else, either. I will just say that this entire cast does wonderfully with the songs they are given to sing.

Will Rapunzel and Artie end up together? Will Flynn Ryder try to take the credit for Artie's heroics? If he makes that attempt, will anyone believe him? What influence will Euclid play on who ends up with who? Will Esmerelda let Rapunzel go without a fight? If there is a fight, what role, if any, will that sword that is in the stone play in it? What songs will they perform? Will there be yet another birthday girl named Sheila in the audience? Come to the show to find out!

I highly recommend RAPUNZEL, with the caution to those who are seizure prone, that there are some lighting effects that could potentially trigger a seizure. The show is scheduled to continue to run through Sunday, March 20, 2022. For times and tickets, please go to tickets.


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