BWW Review: 110 IN THE SHADE at The Gateway Theater
110 in the Shade
Book by N. Richard Nash
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Lyrics by Tom Jones
Based on the play The Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash
Directed by Josh Marx
There's more than an atmospheric drought in the small Southwestern town of Three Point, July 1936. A blistering heat wave has the townsfolk wishing for relief ("Another Hot Day"), while spinster Lizzie Curry is having her own emotional dry spell, believing she's plain and unworthy of romance. The simple hopes of these folk are thrown into turmoil by the appearance of a charismatic travelling huckster who promises to bring rain (for a price). Based on Nash's play and film The Rainmaker, with songs by the team who brought us The Fantasticks, 110 in the Shade is a story of hope and fulfillment set amidst some male-centric perspectives that would have Gloria Steinem's blood boil.
Lizzie's (Andrea Dennison-Laufer) returning from a failed attempt at getting her hitched and her father H.C. Curry (Jesse Caldwell), and two brothers Jimmy (Elliot Hanson) and Noah (James Schott) have a new plan to fix her up with divorced Sheriff File, but he's cautious of getting hurt again and in no mood to woo ("Poker Pola"). It seems only Lizzie's father recognizes her inner beauty. Brother Noah is painfully honest is telling her she's plain and will end up an old maid cause she's too smart (a big turnoff for guys). To add insult to injury, even the 'stupid' brother Jimmy is wooing his bubble-headed dream girl Snookie (Kyra Lynn Kozlenko).
Enter the slick, conman Bill Starbuck (Keith Pinto) who takes advantage of the town's woes by promising rain in 24-hours ("The Rain Song") sending the townsfolk into a revivalist frenzy. Lizzie isn't buying the con and he isn't buying her 'poor ugly worthless' schtick ("You're Not Fooling Me"). In true Cinderella fashion, Bill seduces Lizzie with talk of inner beauty telling her that "all women are pretty". Lizzie is transformed and can see herself being alluring ("Raunchy"), but when her awkward attempts at being a silly girl turn off File (Brin Watson), she is resigned to loneliness ("Old Maid").
All is plays out on a lovely set of slotted wood, lassos, windmills and a water tower designed by Brian Watson and well lit by Michael Palumbo with scorching bright sunlight and a tender moonlight ballet to open the second act ("Everything Beautiful Happens at Night"). The leads all have capable voices and the score more than adequately moves the plots along. Andrea Dennison-Laufer successfully evolves from dowdy self-doubter to a woman able to know herself and choose her future, Brian Watson's File is committed to his duty in order to avoid his pain, Jesse Caldwell's pa is a loving father willing to pimp out his daughter to both Bill and File to see her happy, and Keith Pinto's Bill Starbuck is both cocky and painfully lonely. Elliot Hanson steals every scene with his natural comic mugging and heartfelt commitment to his lovelorn character.
110 in the Shade simmers, but never quite boils. Some of the songs seem incomplete and the script could be tighter. But the leads, ensemble and musical director Dave Dobrusky get A's for effort. Like The Music Man, a much more successful hit at about the same time, 110 is a sweet coming out story set in the dry, parched American Southwest populated with quaint, outdated notions of male/female role models.
110 in the Shade continues through May 12th, 2019 at The Gateway Theater, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. Tickets available at www.42ndstmoon.org or by calling (415) 255-8207.
Photos by Ben Krantz