LIFE AND LOVE BLOOM FOR FOUR LONDON WOMEN ON A JOURNEY TO THE PERFECT ITALIAN VILLA
THE PCRT PRESENTS THE WORLD PREMIERE OF
‘ENCHANTED APRIL’ A NEW MUSICAL ROMANCE,
AT THE FIREHOUSE ARTS CENTER IN PLEASANTON CA.
Four British women take a vacation to Italy in the 1920’s, to take a break from foggy, London. The Pacific Coast Theatre Company presents the world premiere of ENCHANTED APRIL a New Musical Romance by award winning Lyricist Charles Leipart and Composer Richard Evans. The creative team includes skilled Broadway vet and Bay Area Director/Choreographer Lois Grandi. *"I've approached this with the utmost reality," Grandi says. "I attacked this with the idea of the characters being honest. The 1920s is one of my favorite eras." The ENCHANTED APRIL creators are Charles Leipart (Lyrics/Book) and Richard B. Evans (Music and Orchestrations), along with award-winning Music Director, Pat Parr. Grandi brings a professional cast to the Pleasanton Firehouse Arts Center, including David Bryant the original Marius in the first 1987 Broadway production of Les Miserables, along with several national touring and Bay Area professionals, including Joy Sherratt, Christopher Vettel, and David Judson. ENCHANTED APRIL was commissioned by West Bay Opera, with General Director Maestro Jose Luis Boscovich. WBO is the second oldest opera company in the western United States. The PCRT is pleased to present this world event to the Bay Area, and bring such a talented production team to this local stage.
The story is based on the 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim that was adapted for film two times, first a 1935 version and a 1992 film directed by Mike Newell. In 2000 the story was adapted as a stage play by Matthew Barber and featured Jayne Atkinson, Molly Ringwald and Elizabeth Ashley; it earned a Tony nomination for Best Play. ENCHANTED APRIL tells the story of four British women who take a break from the confines of their drab post Victorian 1920s lifestyles to relax in the sun, and find themselves as they spend a month at a castle in Portofino, Italy. These four women redefine themselves at this enchanted castle on the Mediterranean.
The comedy becomes livelier when their husbands and lovers discover the ladies’ fabulous retreat. To find her travelers, Rose, played by the excellent Amy Franklin Leonards, and her friend, Lottie, played by the talented Joy Sherrantt, both married and bored with London life, place the following add in the London Times.
“To those who appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine:
To let for the month of April - a medieval castle on
the Italian Mediterranean shore.”
Easily two other women respond, Lady Caroline, played by Rachel Powers, who is outstanding and is the perfect beautiful but jaded debutante. Powers is a Bay Area vet and was recently seen as Anna in Tri Valley's “King And I”; she has a superb voice. Powers is dazzling in her welcoming solo “A Life Full of Nothing”.The senior and widow who thinks her glory days are all behind her, the very clever Mrs. Fisher is well played by the frisky Ellen Brooks. The four seek a much needed break from their London cares and what they discover at the Italian castle awakens and changes their lives..
David Bryant a Broadway vet from Les Mis plays Frederick, Rose’s busy husband. The two open the musical with “August St. Claire” and both show their craft as excellent actor singers. The dapper and stunning Christopher Vettel is impressive as Mellresh, Lottie’s distracted husband. Vettle has that perfect British timing and class; he brings the right amount of comic timing to his role. As the dismissed husbands locate the castle both show up for warm surprises from their wives. But Vettle shines in second act in “Really Very Nice” with a strong voice alongside Sherratt.
David Judson plays Briggs the owner of castle, the younger of the three men. Judson has an solid voice. Leonard and Judson have an exceptional song “Something Particular to Say” as he becomes very smitten for her. Ryan Henry is cast as Domenico the head of the house and the sleek Andrew Mondello as Beppo, head butler, who gets to show off his excellent dance skills with Grandi's choreography. The two are notable in their duo “Bella Signorina”; Henry and Mondello are a perfect team. Francesca, the head maid, is played by the elegant Maria Mikheyenko and Josselyn O'Neill is Angela, who is part of the Castle's staff. The downstairs staff have a fun number “There’s Something in San Salvatore” and they all are charismatic. Also in the cast Lucy Powers, who plays the younger Rose in a dream sequence and dance, she is an accomplished dancer.
The ensemble is delightful in the company numbers “So Much Beauty” and the sweet romantic closing “Enchanted April”. Charles Leipart music and lyrics are engaging, but really not memorable. You don’t leave this two and half hour musical singing any of his tunes, but you leave with a warm feeling from the enduring romances in the tale. Grandi’s direction is adequate and keeps the show moving. The sold out opening night crowd was very pleased with the musical often shouting out their approval. Composer Richard B Evans, a pro with a few musicals to his name, presents pleasing, whimsical score that includes the roaring twenties at its heart and sweet solos like Rose’s “So Long Ago”, Leonards is somber and touching and a first rate actor. Pat Darr brings Evans’ sound to the Firehouse with a likable orchestra perched as always above the setting at the Firehouse stage.
The set is a highlight of this production designed by the very creative Patrick Brandon. He features a rich main courtyard of the Castle filled with flowers and wisteria cascading from the upper walkway of the set. Brandon gets great use of his side turntable: apartment, bedroom and office set that is very clever. Michael Oesch’s luminous lighting design takes us from foggy London to the bright lovely sun of the Italian castle. Oesch is perfect with the blue moon light for the close of the show, it is splendid. Marget daSilva’s costumes are perfection, London coats and umbrellas for gloomy London, lovely flowing gowns for Lady Caroline, chemise dresses for Rose and Lottie and matronly, but stylish black for Mrs. Fisher. The costumes for the men are very dapper, including a pin striped suit which was very authentic and imbued British class.
Bravo to the Pacific Coast Rep on taking a risk on a new musical. Funds and ticket sales are always a worry with local regional companies, will they come buy tickets and take a chance on a new work. I would say take a look at this new musical, it is well crafted and will complete your spring season at the theatre. I can’t say this show is ready for NY or Broadway, but with some work and tweaking it has a great future. I really admire seeing new work in the greater Bay Area, we don’t often get to test or seek out new works. The smaller companies in San Francisco like Stage Wrez, and the important ThreatreWorks company in Palo Alto encourage new work, and now PCRT is on the map for bringing new work and ENCHANTED APRIL to the East Bay. Let this medieval castle on the Italian Mediterranean shore be the first of many new shows that we get to enjoy. I encourage you to take a risk on these four women, you will be enchanted by ENCHANTED APRIL.
The Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre Presents
A World Premiere
A New Musical Romance
Book and Lyric by Charles Leipart Music by Richard B. Evans
Director Lois Grandi, Music Director Pat Parr
Co-Artistic Directors: David Judson and Pat Parr
The Firehouse Arts Center
4444 Railroad Avenue located in Pleasanton, CA 94566.
Performances run through May 8, 2016,
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm.
Price: $18-$39. For tickets, call (925) 931-4848
Tickets at www.pcrtproductions.org
Photos by Antonio Gonzalez.
*Lou Fancher, Correspondent for EBTIMES quote from Lois Grandi and others