THE VESPA RIDE AROUND THE CITY OF ROME - TAKE US ALL ON A ROMAN HOLIDAY
The city of ROME lights up the SHN’s Golden Stage this month with the pre Broadway SHN world premiere run of the new musical ROMAN HOLIDAY only through June 18. William Wyler’s classic 1953 screen classic “Roman Holiday” that launched Audrey Hepburn’s film career has that simple princess takes a holiday story and should fit a musical format. Prior attempts for a play go's back to 2001 where a simple version was staged in St. Louis and Minneapolis, but it has taken 63 years to make it to stage. ROMAN HOLIDAY has a book by Kathy Speer, Terry Grossman, and Paul Blake, and features such unforgettable Cole Porter songs as "Night and Day," "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye," and "Easy to Love." Marc Bruni directs a cast imported from New York and LA. No huge names but the class act adorable Georgia Engel, from the Golden Age of Television Mary Tyler Moore fame, brings her endearing character to this story.
Director Bruni has all the right elements to bring this romantic fish out of water story as we see the princess discover what she has missed being a royal. The score is memorable and the production team has created the magical look of post war Rome with a 50’s feel projections by Sven Ortel. The production design includes the iconic Vespa that Gregory Peck and Hepburn used to explore the ancient city. But what’s missing is the warm rush you get when you see a stunning Broadway show, this felt more like a tour version. The story opens with the charismatic production number “Why Shouldn’t I” sung by the vibrant Stephanie Styles as Princess Anne on a beautiful set by Todd Rosenthal, who created the passion of that post war city. We meet Joe Bradley the newspaper gent in the song “Take Me Back to Manhattan” he proves his pitch perfect voice and is a tall handsome hero.
Princess Anne, played convincingly by the charming Styles, finds herself in the midst of a highly publicized, highly stressful European press tour. Overwhelmed by her royal duties and life in the limelight, she longs for the freedom and anonymity of a commoner. This part of the story follows the film script. The two meet and the burgeoning couple tour the city. The Princess lets go of her daily obligations and they both hide their true identities, as they take in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Eternal City. Complications arise when they are forced to come to terms of what they have been hiding from each other. Style and Gehling both exhibit quiet moments of tenderness in ant otherwise fun production.
The show’s writers Kathy Speer, Terry Grossman, and Paul Blake, who wrote for The Golden Girls, bring some new characters to the story. The Countess played by the icon sitcom star Georgia Engel steps onstage to instant applause. She is best known for her role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Engel was recently seen in ACT’s John where she was cast as the same whimsical senior, adding her recognizable sweet tone that brings a smile as she plays her role as the princess’ aunt. She’s concerned, yet confused. Engle is the highlight of this whole new packaged musical, and it is certain her role will continue as the show transfers to Broadway later this season. Engle’s has no songs, but she still steals the show from the main company.
The sexy Sara Chase as Francesca is also a new character to this Roman Holiday and she is hampered from the fact that her role is really unnecessary. Chase has a strong singing voice and she sparkles in the Cole Porter numbers “Night and Day”, “Begin the Beguine” and the classic “You Do Something To Me”. Her dance solo sizzles in “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love” that opens the second act and under Alex Sanchez’s excellent swooping jazz choreography. The company is compelling during the full scale ballet in the production number “Experiment” featuring Styles and Gehling. The motor scooter moves smoothly around the set and the two leads bring “Riding High” to a clever comical romp that pleased the opening night sold out crowd.
Jarrod Spector as Irving, the side kick photographer that Joe has hired to follow his day with the Princess, does meet the storyline as Irving did in the 1953 film. Spector has a couple of solos including “Easy To Love” - his voice is ordinary; his acting is better. His comic timing with his love for Francesca is convincing, and their “Night And Day” duet is charming. Catherine Zuber’s costumes and 50’s skirts and slick jackets for the boys, and very elegant hats and jewels for the Countess, who leads the fashion parade for the royals. Engle is elegant on stage in the many David Brian Brown’s wigs and swooping gowns she gets to appear in. The princess’ crowns sparkle under Peter Kaczorowski lighting, and the town square at night is amazing colors and hanging lights. Music directors Todd Ellison and John Miller keep the small company sound rich and full and Styles voice is pitch perfect. The specific dance music by Mark Hummel fill the large Golden Gate Venue with Brian Ronan’s elegant sound design.
Is Roman Holiday ready for the great white way, as the princess sings “Use your Imagination” that is the impression I left with. The opening night crowd gave the smiling company a standing O’ - but I don’t think New York audiences will be as kind. I would guess the producers have some cuts and changes to make before they can take this Holiday to Broadway. Nonetheless it is very pleasing to have ROMAN HOLIDAY in town to celebrate Gay Pride and for us to enjoy some great Cole Porter and a vespa ride around the wonderful historic Golden Gate Theatre.
SHN Presents the World Premiere
A new Musical
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Kathy Speer, Terry Grossman,
and Paul Blake
Directed by Marc Bruni
Music Director Todd Ellison, Choreography by Alex Sanchez
SHN Golden Gate Theatre
1 Taylor St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Must Close June 18th
2 hours 20 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission
Photo's by Joan Marcus
$40 MOBILE RUSH
Download the TodayTix app in the iOS App Store or Google Play Store to unlock the Rush ticketing feature for ROMAN HOLIDAY - THE MUSICAL by sharing on Facebook or Twitter through the app.
Check back in the app at 9:00am for access to exclusive day-of $40 Rush tickets for every performance. Limited number of Rush tickets per performance.
And A limited number of $40 Rush tickets will be available for every performance beginning 2 hours prior to curtain at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre Box Office. Tickets are subject to availability. Cash only, 2 per person.
NEW SONG FOR ROMAN HOLIDAY