Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston has done it again: they have exceeded the high expectations I brought with me when I took my seat and waited for Dan Rodriguez's orchestra to launch into the opening riffs of the overture of "Me and My Girl." I only became aware of Reagle a few summers ago, and since discovering this iridescent gem of a theatre company, I have been consistently delighted and transported by each production I have attended.
Before last evening, I knew little about "Me and My Girl." I knew a couple of the songs: "Lambeth Walk" and "Leaning on a Lamp-Post." The story is a simple one - Upscale Mayfair meets Downscale Lambeth. Denizens of the two worlds collide in ways that send showers of entertaining sparks flying at the audience and which leave all of the play's characters somewhat changed by the collision of classes. But this play is about so much more than the book. On the surface it is a simple and often silly saga of class warfare with a touch of Pygmalion thrown in for good measure. The overall impression with which I was left at the end of the play was that I had experienced a delightful encounter with something resembling a mash-up of Gilbert & Sullivan, the Gershwins and a dash of Monty Python.
Director and Choreographer Cynthia Thole appeared in this show on Broadway, so she brings the ethos of the piece to the cast which she has carefully assembled. They are a wondrously entertaining troupe - a saucy admixture of veterans of the stage and energetic rookies who hold their own quite well alongside Actors' Equity members. There is not a weak link among the chain of principals and ensemble singers and dancers. The show is a visual delight. Ms. Thole has recreated the original Broadway choreography, and it is gorgeous - legs and arms flying in all directions in perfect syncopation. Adding to the spectacle is the delightful set designed by Richard E. Schreiber, Lighting by David Wilson and Costumes by Kansas City Costumes. Previously mentioned Dan Rodriguez leads an orchestra that bathes the players and the performance space in luxuriant tones with vibrant brass overtones and lush strings.
Among a uniformly impressive cast, several actors stand out and need to be highlighted here.
Joshua Holden as Bill Snibson commands the stage from the moment he bursts through the double doors leading to the interior of Hareford Hall. His Cockney accent and rough manners stand in comically stark contrast to the stiff-upper-lip ethos of Hareford Hall and its aristocratic inhabitants. It has been learned that he is the unlikely heir of the late Earl of Hareford, and if he can be cleaned up enough to be able to address the House of Lords without creating a scandal, he shall become the next Earl and take ownership of Hereford Hall and all that accompanies the title. The physical humor and agility that Mr. Holden brings to the role is mind-blowing. He seems born to play this role. The ermine-trimmed cape depicted in the poster above plays a significant role in one of the funniest scenes in the play. This scene alone is worth the price of admission. In my title for this article I mentioned that he steals the show. I do not mean that he in any way tries to overshadow the rest of the cast. It is simply that when he is on stage, one cannot keep one's eyes off of him, wondering what he will do or say next. This role for Holden is nothing less than a tour de force! He is an original - an amalgam of Fred Astaire, Stan Laurel and Jim Henson!
Joshua Holden as "Bill Snibson" from Reagle Music Theatre's production of Me and My Girl,
running July 10-20th at the Robinson Theatre, Waltham. www.reaglemusictheatre.com.
Photos Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/Herb Philpott
Jamie Buxton plays Bill's Cockney girlfriend, Sally Smith. With Bill's rapid escalation up the social ladder, she is reluctant to hold him back by his being saddled with a simple and unsophisticated companion, she she tries to disappear and leave him to his new life. Complications ensue! Ms. Buxton has a sumptuous Broadway voice, and her rendition of "Once You Lose Your Heart" is heart-rending and a highlight of the evening. Like a carefully chosen wine, her Sally pairs well with Mr. Holden's bangers and mash Bill.
Devon Stone as Gerald Bolingbroke and Shonna Cirone as Lady Jaqueline Carstone are also perfectly paired. Before the discovery of the heir, they stood to inherit Hareford Hall when they marry. Jacqui throws over Gerald when he is no longer the presumptive heir. She plots to win Bill's heart, and Gerald plots to make sure that Bill does not succeed in becoming a gentleman. Their duet, "Thinking of No One But Me" is a fun number.
The trustees of the estate who must decide if Bill passes muster to become the Earl of Hareford are Sir John Tremayne (Rishi Basu) and Marie, Duchess of Dene (Carole Healy) They are each pitch perfect in these roles - the Duchess trying to help to refine and salvage Bill and Sir John trying to send Bill packing back to the East End of London. Like Beatrice and Benedick in Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," these two use outward hostility towards one another to mask a smoldering subterranean passion that finally comes to the surface and is fanned into flame. They bring a wonderful archness and playfulness to the roles that greatly enriches this production.
Speaking of playful archness, Chris Charron as Herbert Parchester, the Hareford family's Solicitor, is clearly having a great time with this role. The usually punctilious solicitor often spontaneously breaks out into song, including the very Gilbert & Sullivan-like "The Family Solicitor."
Daniel Forest Sullivan's Butler, Charles Heathersett, is the very model of formal correctness and rectitude, remaining calm amidst Bill's escalating antics.
I could go on. They are all lovely, and seem to be having the time of their lives singing and dancing and telling this delightfully silly tale.
Joshua Holden as "Bill Snibson" (center) and ensemble from Reagle Music Theatre's production of
Me and My Girl, running July 10-20th at the Robinson Theatre, Waltham. www.reaglemusictheatre.com.
Photos Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/Herb Philpott
My advice is to take a Lambeth Walk out to Waltham, and see this show that runs through next Sunday, July 20.