Review: BEST OF CANDLELIGHT at Candlelight Music Theatre

Production runs thru October 31

By: Sep. 28, 2021
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Review: BEST OF CANDLELIGHT at Candlelight Music Theatre

Candlelight Theatre opens their third show of the season with an economical inhouse production of BEST OF CANDLELIGHT, a prudent decision with live theatre the world over attempting to gain financial stasis. This show has no 'book', saving licensing money. The show takes us down Broadway; a smorgasbord of solos, duets and production numbers. As previously reported, Candlelight is to be commended for being the first entertainment venue in the state to welcome back grateful guests.

Enjoying 51 years of existence, they have an almost bottomless trunk of classic show tunes from which to choose. In fact, with this very embarrassment of riches, presumably Director Bob Kelly's main disquiet was in selecting the perfect songs to match with the cast.

With twenty four songs performed from twenty two shows (three 'applications' of HAIRSPRAY), it's logical to consider that not all audience members are familiar with the program book. The production lacked flow and ease. With no particular rhyme, reason or sequence, an overzealous Emcee (Tim Moudy) would catapult in like a whirling dervish and explain how much he loved the next number - and why we should too. We have seen similar "Best of" productions with a decidedly more nuanced and sophisticated approach. An emcee (in tuxedo), would give context to the next number. He would be an enabler to the guests, establishing rapport and inspiring confidence as they are given a thumbnail sketch.

One normally does not see two choreographers listed. Aisle Say is aware that Dann Dunn has background in Fosse Fosse Fosse, so perhaps he was brought in to oversee 'Magic To Do" (PIPPIN) and "Cell Block Tango" (CHICAGO). The production numbers by and large were lifted from familiar Broadway productions or films. They still must be rigorously rehearsed. Both Dunn and Jody Anderson created tight, exciting numbers, with "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" (HELLO DOLLY), "Good Morning Baltimore" (HAIRSPRAY) and "Brotherhood of Man" (HOW TO SUCCEED, etc, etc, etc). Katherina Muniz and Phoebe Gavula were standout dancers, along with Bryan Jeffrey's aerial split in "Easy Street" (ANNIE).

Linguistic Update: Aisle Say was scratching his noggin after hearing the character of Tommy in the BRIGADOON sequence speak in a Scottish brogue. His character, and that of Jeff, are American tourists.

Costumer Timothy Lamont Cannon had his head on a swivel with some many disparate numbers and a large cast. I recall in the 70's when Aisle Say was auditioning for show after show after show. He was full of vim and vigor (and yes, sometimes vitriol) when a misguided, miscreant director lacked the foresight to cast him).

Fifty years ago (OMG), the vast majority of the casts were pencil thin. Then McDonald's happened and the world turned topsy turvy with processed foods. Waist lines changed. Some of the actors appeared uncomfortable in their costumes. That said, Cannon and his staff did an excellent job in capturing the period of each number. The ensemble numbers were very impressive. "Sunday Clothes" was a show stopper in its elegant and Yonkers NY costumes.

Clayton Stacey once again came through with a dazzling selection of wigs. One supposes Tiara's towering pompadour was Dolly in "Sunday Clothes" was a paean to Carol Channing? Or maybe Marie Antoinette.

While audience favorite, Lindsay Mauck did not have a solo, she was in many of the numbers. Lindsay has charisma. She has a presence. Her smile is forever inviting and exudes the love she has for live theatre and her troupe.

The show stopping numbers were delivered by Anthony Connell in "Maria", WEST SIDE STORY. A wonderful triple threat performer, we would have wished his second solo was from this role as Anthony singing "No One's Going To Harm You", from a past production of SWEENEY TOOD. That number equals the pathos of Sondheim's most popular song ever, "Send In The Clowns". I recall there were a plethora of hankies passed around during his exquisite interpretation. (Aisle Say saw the original production with Angela and Len Cariou...three times!). Anthony Connell embraced our misbegotten souls with that performance a few years back. "Suddenly Seymour" is cute. It lacks the gravitas of the other. Big whiff on that one.

Tiffany Dawn Christopher, following her supernova performance in BEEHIVE, absolutely killed in "As We Stumble Along" (DROWSY CHAPERONE). Not a word spoken in the audience during that tour de force. Thunderous applause followed.

Tiara Green as Dolly was magnetic and flamboyant in "Sunday Clothes". Rosemary Benson offered a heart wrenching "Some People" (GYPSY).

Drum roll. Now for the award for the greatest comedienne in Candlelight's fabled history. You really must witness in person Tori Healy doing "He Vas My Boyfriend" (YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN). No one can snarl lips like this irrepressible wunderkind. If she snarled in front of me, I would wilt like sunflowers in my late-September garden. I would beg forgiveness for whatever transgression she thought me culpable. I would make a couple up! Her characterization is reminiscent of the pan shot of the audience in Mel Brooks' other classic, THE PRODUCERS. Remember when Hitler takes the stage and the entire audience is pictured with their mouths wide open in stunned surprise? Well, that's the way everyone felt opening after watching Tori do her angst-ridden sturm und drang love song; a very, very different type of love song about a very different type of boyfriend.

The staff at Candlelight is so very accommodating. The portions of food were perfectly measured and delectable.

Beautiful photos by Tisa Della-Volpe

The show runs to October 31. Next is A Christmas Carol by Candlelight, opening November 20. 302.475.2313.