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A Catered Affair

a Musical
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by Book - Harvey Fierstein; Music & Lyrics - John Bucchino

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 3673

SHOWING : March 04, 2010 - March 28, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

In 2008, "A Catered Affair" was performed on Broadway by an all-star cast for 116 performances. This funny, poignant and oh-so-human tale of love and marriage begins its magnificent journey into regional theatre with its post-Broadway debut on March 4th at Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville.

Set in the Bronx in 1953, "A Catered Affair" chronicles a blue-collar family, the Hurleys, who must decide whether to spend their life savings on a taxicab business or on the wedding of their only daughter, Janey. Based on Paddy Chayefsky's original teleplay and the Turner Entertainment film that was written by Gore Vidal, "A Catered Affair" was adapted for the stage by Broadway legend Harvey Fierstien with music and lyrics by John Bucchino. This hit musical was nominated for 3 Tony awards and 12 Drama Desk awards.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Freddie Ashley
Music Director Ann-Carol Pence
Musical Staging Ricardo Aponte
Dolores/The Caterer Christy Baggett
Aggie Hurley Ingrid Cole
Janey Hurley Laura Floyd
Myra/Dress Salesperson Kenya Hamilton
Pasha/Mrs. Halloran Nita Hardy
Winston Glenn Rainey
Tom Hurley Anthony Rodriguez
Sam/Mr. Halloran Randall Taylor
Alice/Army Sergeant Rachel White
Ralph Halloran Jeremy Wood
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Weddings and Marriages
by Dedalus
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
4.0
Okay, here’s a fun game aficionados of musicals like to play. What’s more important – for a score to have hummable and memorable songs, or for a score to illuminate and accentuate the story and characters and emotions of the plot? A friend from college and I used to always have this argument – he took the stance that Sondheim was awful because he never had a top-ten hit or that you’d be hard-pressed to get one of his melodies “stuck in your head.” My side was that Sondheim’s genius is in fitting the music to the play, in drenching his scores with the flavors of the stories and the characters doing the singing. You can’t switch songs from one Sondheim show to another, as you can with most writers of the prior eras.

I bring this up because I first heard the John Bucchino score for “A Catered Affair” over a year ago, and found it so unmemorable I hadn’t listened to it since. After seeing the show (at Aurora Theatre), though, I am actually impressed at how it amplifies the story and develops the characters. I’ve listened to it twice since seeing the show, and, truth to tell, it is growing on me.

“A Catered Affair” is based on an olde 1956 Bette Davis movie (one she called “her proudest effort”) in which a young couple’s plans for a quick and simple marriage degenerate into a family-busting spectacle. Aggie and Tom are a working class New York couple, whose daughter Janey is planning a quickie wedding so she and her fiancé Ralph can take advantage of an all-expenses-paid cross country road trip. But, Aggie has dreams of giving her daughter the budget-busting wedding she never had, Ralph’s parents are well-to-do nouveau riche extroverts, Uncle Win (the proverbial “confirmed bachelor”) is miffed at being left out of the activities, and between this and that and th’other, the family is busting apart at the seams.

This is an emotionally rich piece, offering more than the quick laughs of a “Father of the Bride” clone. Aggie and Tom have lost their son in the war, and they are in an emotional tailspin. Aggie sees herself trapped in a loveless marriage, and believes this wedding will be last chance to save her daughter from her own fate. And Tom is seeing the opportunity to own a piece of the cab he has been driving his whole life evaporate in an avalanche of catering bills.

But it is the score that is the glue that holds the piece together, the roadmap for following the conflicting and twisting emotional path that gets us to the gently satisfying ending. Aggie sings of her perfect wedding vision as her brother Winston brings it to life behind her. Winston, rebuffed as being not part of the “Immediate Family” rebuts in song that “I may not be your immediate family, but you are certainly mine!.” Janey and Ralph “Don’t Ever Stop Saying ‘I Love You’” (perhaps the most memorable melody in the piece). Tom responds to Aggie’s plaint of lovelessness with his angry “I stayed.” And, the entire cast recalls “Coney Island,” with its thinly veiled metaphor of marriage being a roller coaster (“Open your eyes and enjoy the view,” even if it feels safer to keep them closed).

In the final analysis, this piece uses weddings as an opening to get at what’s really important – marriage. I liked how Ingrid Cole and Anthony Rodriguez show us a couple who seem like they have been together for decades – so many of their scenes depend on subtext and silence (if not singing), and they convinced me fully. Their actions seemed informed by a lifetime of habit, and their affection for each other, admittedly far far below the surface, is nevertheless evident, giving the ending a less contrived, more natural feel than you might expect.

As the young couple, Laura Floyd and Jeremy Wood and suitably affectionate and comfortable together, coming across as a couple truly ready to be married, truly compatible in that we-know-each-other-so-well sense their parents have already forgotten. As Uncle Winston, Glenn Rainey is less flamboyant that I imagine Harvey Fierstein was in the original, but he nevertheless convinced, making a character who is memorable and whimsical, all at the same time. (Side note – Mr. Fierstein wrote the book for this adaptation; the original movie was written by Gore Vidal and Paddy Chayefsky.) The cast was filled out by Christy Baggett, Kenya Hamilton, Nita Hardy, and Randall Taylor, all playing multiple roles, or filling the sound for the final choral number. There was nary a missed step (or an “off” note) in the lot!

I also have to credit the design crew with the period detail that went into the set. Little things like kitchen gadgets, cereal boxes, costumes and hairstyles all definitively cast this story in the early ‘50’s (though that was almost sabotaged in the opening number by a tacky computer-driven lighting effect). Hiding the orchestra “in plain view” on the second floor of the set was an added flourish that I appreciated.

I’ve never seen the original “The Catered Affair” movie. After seeing this musical, though, I have to wonder if a non-musical version would have the same emotional impact. So much of my reaction stemmed from how the music amplified and clarified the subtexts and undercurrents that I don’t think I can help but be disappointed (even with my fondness for Bette Davis). Still and all, I look forward to eventually seeing it.

What won’t be disappointing though is pulling out this Original Cast CD and listening to it again and again. This is definitely an “Affair” to remember.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



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The movie's good too by playgoer
Bette Davis is not a natural fit for a frumpy housewife, but she and Ernest Borgnine acquit themselves nicely as the married couple. Debbie Reynolds is fine as the daughter too. Many things are subtler in the movie, but the overall feeling is similar to the musical.
Not Pitch-Perfect
by playgoer
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
4.0
"A Catered Affair" is a tight one-act musical that is enjoying its first post-Broadway production at the Aurora Theatre. The production is of consistently high quality, but it's clear why the show didn't win any Tonys during its short stay in New York a couple of years ago. It's no blockbuster. Its pleasures are small and bittersweet and largely dependent on the tightness of its cast.

The cast chosen by Freddie Ashley for Aurora's production hasn't yet meshed into a cohesive family unit. Individual performances don't combine to give the impression of a lifetime of connections. Ingrid Cole sings beautifully as Aggie, the mother of the bride, and gives a lovely nuanced performance. The nuances, though, are focused mostly on individual moments, not on interplay with her husband Tom (played by Anthony Rodriguez), her brother Winston (played by Glenn Rainey), and her daughter Janey (played by Laura Floyd). I ultimately did not believe that these people have inhabited the same world across a lifetime.

Anthony Rodriguez probably has the most difficult role in the play. He is asked to remain stolidly silent during long sections of the play, and his reactions to the ongoing actions were not easy to read, giving the impression that he, as an actor, hadn't decided what the reactions should be. His big number near the end of the show ("I Stayed") is marred by sour notes. As always, though, Anthony brought a lot of energy to his performance.

Glenn Rainey, filling the shoes filled by book-writer Harvey Fierstein on Broadway, is not tailor-made for the role of a somewhat flamboyant bachelor uncle. His performance is generally understated, and he doesn't have the presence or star power to make his bookending vignettes complete the story. The bitter lines Harvey Fierstein wrote for himself here come across without the tinge of crass humor a different performance may have provided.

Laura Floyd gives a strong performance as Janey, although she is not helped by a misshapen wig and occasional strained notes. She is believable as a girl with strong ideas who for a while lets herself get swept away by the grandiose glamour of a storybook wedding and reception.

Jeremy Wood, playing her fiance Ralph, gives a strong performance, both in terms of singing and acting. All his scenes are blocked upstage, though, which keeps his character more in the background than it need be. Everyone else gets a turn on the downstage side of things. Mr. Wood seems to be a good-looking young gentleman, but he's reduced in much of the show to a figure in an oversized pair of glasses.

The female neighbors and friends, played by Rachel White, Nita Hardy, Kenya Hamilton, and Christy Baggett, all give fine performances that mesh together well. I particularly enjoyed Christy Baggett's posture and inflections as a nosy neighbor. These women all play dual roles, and bring nice distinctions to their characters. Randall Taylor, playing Tom's blue collar business partner and also Ralph's upscale father, delineates his two characters especially well, although his singing voice is not as strong as some others in the cast.

The action takes place on a neatly designed set that features stoop-like balconies and a rolling bed, with the orchestra tucked away behind a line of windows at the second-story level. It's a lovely set, and Philip Male deserves praise for the design. The set is generally well lit by Jessica Coale, although a rotating daisy effect in the opening number seemed a little cheesy. Costumes match the period effect of the set ably, with a nice mixture of everyday styles and wedding attire.

While the show has little of what of would be considered choreography, the musical staging of Ricardo Aponte is always enjoyable in "A Catered Affair." Nita Hardy is given a particularly pleasant unwilling dance that adds a light touch to the proceedings.

The vocal balance isn't as finely tuned as is usually the case with musical director Ann-Carol Pence, although that may improve as the run continues. I was particularly disappointed by the finale, in which the onstage voices did not seem to be augmented by the strong voices of the offstage female ensemble. In listening to the CD of the Broadway production, I noted that a richer, more female-heavy sound in the finale really made a difference, not just in vocal beauty, but also in storytelling. The orchestra sounds terrific throughout.

With a pitch-perfect cast playing off one another with the rhythms of a deeply dysfunctional family, "A Catered Affair" would be a splendid evening (or afternoon) of theatre, even though its bittersweet content would never leave an audience with a warm glow or humming its melodies. Aurora's production makes a good stab at presenting "A Catered Affair," but the interconnections between the characters aren't fully established in a believable manner. If that aspect improves in the coming weeks of the production, "A Catered Affair" will gel into an even stronger production. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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