Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Review - Caprice (Wings Theatre Company)

Review by Byrne Harrison

Sue Berch, Jared Joplin, Frank Galgano and LinDel Sandlin
Photograph by Ben Strothmann

One of the things I admire about the Wings Theatre Company is their willingness to serve as an incubator for new musicals. Sometimes, they have a hit. Sometimes they don’t. Unfortunately, their latest musical Caprice, Robert Lux’s backstage musical set in the late 1950s, misses the mark.

Following the adventures of the cast, crew and managers of the Caprice Theatre, the show promises “dueling divas, naïve ingénues, conniving board members, and a fortune teller.” And while it’s true that those things appear, the flimsy story that connects them all fails to make them interesting.

Caprice follows B. Frank Facetious (Jared Joplin) and his long-suffering and clearly besotted stage manager, Paul Marseilles (Frank Galgano), as they attempt to stage what is destined to become the latest in a line of musical stinkers. As B., as he is known to his cast, makes mistake after mistake – being seduced into casting the untalented Louise Horntinsky (Sue Berch), allowing the rivalry between Louise and the better qualified actress, Veeda Goodrich (LinDel Sandlin), to become a knockdown fight, ignoring the feelings of the puppy-dog-eyed Paul, and allowing a domineering board member (Mary Anne Prevost) to walk all over him – he spirals closer and closer to being fired and losing everything.

Lux’s music is enjoyable, though his lyrics (with an assist by Jim Keeler) tend toward the obvious. He has a gift for ballads, however, and two of the songs, “Once Again” and the lovely “On the Day of Love,” are rather good taken on their own. The second in particular, sung by Vanessa Wendt as a gypsy fortune teller, showcases a problem with the musical. The song, and indeed her character, seems shoehorned into the show. This is compounded by director Fred C. L. Mann’s decision to have the gypsy character onstage for the first few numbers before her scene, silently watching the events unfold. This makes it seem that her character will be somehow more important to the plot of the show. Several characters, especially the underwritten dueling diva, Louise, seem to be merely afterthoughts. The fact that the dueling divas rarely appear onstage together (Louise rarely appears period) and that only Veeda has any songs, give short shrift to what could have been a fun secondary story.

Lux’s decision to place the musical in 1959 seems likewise unnecessary, especially as it made one of B.’s songs, “Life is Not a Musical,” anachronistic, by referencing modern musicals like Annie. It did, however allow costume designer Kurt A. Smith and set designer Justin Couchara to have a little fun with their great period costumes and mod designs.

The acting in Caprice is uneven, with a certain amount of blame going to Mann’s flaccid direction and Lux’s cardboard characters. The one standout is LindDel Sandlin. Her Veeda is an salty broad with a touch of Merman about her. If Veeda had been given more chances to shine, and a better written opponent, Sandlin could have brought down the house.

Music and Lyrics by Robert Lux
Additional Lyrics by Jim Keeler
Directed and Choreographed by Fred C. L. Mann III
Musical Direction by David Hancock Turner
Costume Design by Kurt A. Smith
Set Design by Justin Couchara
Lighting Design by Joyce Liao
Stage Manager: Chelsea Underwood

Featuring: LinDel Sandlin (Veeda Goodrich), Joey Kovach (Cecil Beam), Jimmy Glidden III (Michael Sparks), Frank Galgano (Paul Marseilles), Jared Joplin (B. Frank Facetious), Sue Berch (Louise Horntinsky), Melissa Zimmerman (Heather Winterset), Vanessa Wendt (Madame Sherry), Mary Anne Prevost (Grace Weidenfelt), Cooper Cerulo (Georgie Weidenfelt), Anthony Fusco (Virge Butler)

Wings Theatre
154 Christopher Street

Thursday-Saturday 8 PM
Sundays 3:30 PM
Monday 8 PM

Closed October 5th