BWW Review: TAP's Vintage Comic Opera MADAME SHERRY Transforms into Sparkling Show of Song and Dance
Does a comic opera from 1910 resonate with contemporary audiences? The answer would be with certainty, yes. Third Avenue Playhouse's Madame Sherry with original book/lyrics by Otto Harbach and music by Karl L. Hoschna, would be completely entertaining in the under James Valcq's impressive adaptation and direction along with a talented acting troupe who possess triple threats---they act, dance and sing. Valcq adapted the vintage comic opera from a found script and stage manager's notes discovered in New York's Public library and produces this effervescent theater experience on stage in Sturgeon Bay. With more than 20 songs, romantic smooching and clever choreography, Madame Sherry rings in summer entertainment and chases away any cloudy skies appearing on the horizon, literally or figuratively.
The fact is, actual sherry, made in Spain from a particular white grape that eventually is fortified for heavier varieties has been noted by wine writers to be an under appreciated and neglected wine treasure. TAP's Madame Sherry provides a perfect operatic example of this same premise. The successful musical gem from 1910 translates into a crazy, whirlwind of mistaken identities, misplaced lovers and singable music in this charming theatrical comedy for any age to enjoy.
An exceptional cast comprised by Valcq and the TAP team includes pianist Jack Forbes Wilson, who accompanies Anna Cline (Lulu), Debra Babich (Catherine), James Valcq (the very funny Frenchman Phillippe), Adam Estes (Edward Sherry), Ryan Patrick Shaw (Leonardo Gomez), Anne Mae Beyer (Pepita), Kaleigh Rae Gamaché (Yvonne Sherry) and Drew Brhel (Theophilus Sherry). The names become part of the musical's mystique, and was there no Madame Sherry in this story? A missing Madame Sherry reflects the premise the play revolves around--Edward Sherry lied about having a wife, his Madame Sherry, and having two children to his uncle Theophilus. How all these mysteries resolve creates frenetic fun in three quick paced acts.
Valcq stated in the after show talk back he "needed a cast to respond to the charm [of the piece] and convey the wit." Indeed, he did--each performer truly sparkles in one show stopping number that will keep the audience under a magical spell, as one song's lyrics reminds the audience. Cline and Shaw create exceptional chemistry in "Every Little Movement," a reflection of synchronized movement.
Pepita's temperamental on stage persona delivers a dance where she uncovers a dagger in her garter, while sung by Beyer in "The Kiss You Gave." Or Gamaché's Yvonne and Estes' Edward "Dance of Love" creates another kind of heat on stage. Babich's "Put Your Arms Around Me" sung to Edward as he runs in the other direction, is also a highlight, while a delightful ensemble piece titled "The Smile She Means for Me," centers the stage where the entire cast shines.
"Ciribiribin," Gamaché's solo accompanied by Valcq's concertina retells a beautiful, lyrical love song early in the final act and leads to Brhel's "We Are Only Poor Weak Mortals," "the sons of of apple eating Adam prone to fall," a phrase summarizing the entire story. Everyone has a misbegotten tale to tell, or lie to confess in Madame Sherry. Intoxicating and delicious entertainment, the production also includes Kelsey Wang (also the gifted costume designer), and Georgina Spelvin, who round out the cast.
If truly sherry wine, and then also the 100 year old comic opera Madame Sherry, similar to last season's Maid to Marry, are under appreciated and often neglected, than TAP certainly upgrades these lost gems and wonderful music from the past in this production, which includes "Cuddle Up A Little Closer" and "Oh, You Beautiful Doll" to warm the heart under any and all circumstances. Be sure to tickle your musical palette this August with TAP's bubbly, vintage operatic production of Madame Sherry-an oh, so happy, feel good, absolutely sparkling TAP performance of song and dance.
Stage Door Theater Company presents Madame Sherry at Third Avenue Playhouse through September 3 in Historic Sturgeon Bay at 239 North Third Street. For information regarding their August Fundraiser, special events or tickets to the performance, please call: 920.743.1760 or www.thirdavenueplayhouse.com.