BWW Review: MasterVoices' Babes in Toyland: "I did dwell within it and was forever happy there!"

BWW Review: MasterVoices' Babes in Toyland: “I did dwell within it and was forever happy there!”

The first show I had the honor of reviewing for Broadway World was Ted Sperling's A Broadway Romance with Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana at the Tilles Center back in October. After seeing that production, I could not wait to see Sperling's next production with MasterVoices of Victor Herbert's Babes in Toyland and I am thrilled to report that the excitement was well worth the wait; Sperling's production was an adorable and wonderful trip down Nostalgia Lane.

This masterful production was a master class in the history of musical theater. You were able to see how the operetta, novelty songs, the incorporation of current events, and the musical could all be blended together to craft a brilliant comical show. It was amazing to discover that this was the first time in over a century that this show was performed in its original format. As I was familiar with both the Laurel and Hardy holiday classic and Disney version starring Annette Funnicello versions of the story, I was intrigued to see the original material and, my god, is it dark.

The plot is extremely lovely and silly, but too complex to record in writing. Essentially, the musical serves as a G-rated version of Sondheim's Into the Woods, but still manages to capture the darkness that rivals The Brothers Grimm. Ted Sperling and MasterVoices were able to assemble a splendid ensemble cast. Kelli O'Hara was radiant as Mary Quite Contrary. Jay Armstrong Johnson as Tom-Tom and Lauren Worsham as Jane both sang beautifully and were perfect fits for Herbert's operetta style. Jeffrey Schecter, Michael Kostroff, and This Is Us's Chris Sullivan provided the comic relief as Roderigo, Chief Inspector Marmaduke, & Gonzorgo respectively. The Days & Nights of Mollie Dodd and Orange is the New Black star Blair Brown served as the Narrator providing insightful and comedic anecdotes about Herbert's production and did a wonderful job helping the audience understand the plot. In addition to the wonderful cast, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, under the direction of Ted Sperling and backed by the MasterVoices, was earth shatteringly powerful.

BWW Review: MasterVoices' Babes in Toyland: “I did dwell within it and was forever happy there!”
(Kelli O'Hara, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Lauren Worsham, Chris Sullivan, Blair Brown)

Babes in Toyland had many wonderful highlights. First, Bill Irwin; this man is a living legend. Irwin portrayed The Toymaker and brought his genius to the role incorporating both his comedic and dramatic prowess. There was a moment where Irwin comedically relieved Sperling as conductor and echoed his performance as conductor in "Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall". With Tony nominated turns in Young Frankenstein, Finian's Rainbow & Waitress, Christopher Fitzgerald has become synonymous with musical comedy. His tour de force performance as Alan was breathtaking; he literally would take you breath away because the audience would laugh hysterically every time he was on stage. His performances of "Floretta" and "The Song of the Poet" will definitely be remembered by all who saw it. Jonathan Freeman was the perfect choice to play the sinister Uncle Barnaby. Freeman is of course most famous for creating the iconic role of Jafar in Disney's Aladdin. Chills literally were sent down my spine when I had the delight of hearing his signature evil laugh. Chris Sullivan was also a delight and it was thrilling to hear his fantastic singing voice. It's been amazing seeing this star continue to rise; from his unrecognizable turn as Taserface in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, to his heart tugging turn as Toby in the hit series This is Us, to his comedic musical performance here. In homage to Victor Herbert continuously updating his songs to feature current affairs, there was a great moment where Sullivan added a hilarious lyric about Donald Trump in the song "If I Were a Man Like That"; I'll let you imagine what was improvised.

Sperling has done another brilliant job bringing Broadway to Long Island. Hopefully, he will continue this series next year with the Tilles Center. He has given many people wonderful theater experiences that will not be soon forgotten. Thank you, Ted.


Related Articles

Long Island THEATER Stories | Shows


From This Author Nicholas Pontolillo

Before you go...