THREE SISTERS an American Premiere of a 1934 Musical
(L-R) Bill Fahrner (George), Kate Paul (Tiny), Danny Cozart (Gypsy Hood), Riley Krull (Mary Barbour) Song: "Now That I Have Springtime".
Dorrie Barbour (Brittany Danielle) and Sir John Marsden (Michael Kern Cassidy) sing “I Won’t Dance” . (Photo by DavidAllenStudio.com)
THREE SISTERS: 1934 Musical Comedy. Music by Jerome Kern. Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Directed by Greg MacKellan. 42nd Street Moon, Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. 415/255-5207 or www.42ndstreetmoon.org.
December 3 through December 18, 2011
THREE SISTERS an American Premiere of a 1934 Musical.
It is a long journey and a labor of love for 42nd Street Moon’s full production of the 1934 musical Three Sisters (not the Chekhov story) receiving its American premiere to an appreciative audience at the intimate Eureka Theatre. Written by the team of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II it opened in London’s Theatre Royal starring the soon to be famous Stanley Holloway and Charlotte Greenwood. However, it was not well received, lasting only two months before the libretto and musical disappeared into dusty archives.
Through generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the diligence of Artistic Director Greg MacKellan and Musical Director Dave Dobrusky the musical is receiving a spirited if lengthy (two hours 40 minutes) reincarnation with a thoroughly professional cast, competent production crew and music provided by Dobrusky (who wrote the vocal/instrumental arrangements), Nick Di Scala on reeds and David Reffkin on violin. The cast, including nine members of Actors Equity, is a veritable who’s who of the local musical stage scene with a couple of new faces added to the 42nd Street Moon family. “Old timers” include Bill Fahrner, Michael Patrick Gaffney, and Michael Kern Cassidy.
You will recognize the story that follows the lines of Ferenc Molnar’s Liliom that Rogers and Hammerstein a few years later morphed into the inspiring Carousel. The three sisters Tiny, Dorrie and Mary (Kate Paul, Brittany Danielle, Riley Krull) are daughters of Will Barbour (Michael Patrick Gaffney) who makes his living following the local fairs in their horse drawn living quarters taking and selling photographs of the attendees. In the course of their travels they meet up with singing and dancing buskers Gypsy Hood (Danny Cozart) and George Purvis (Bill Fahrner). Mary the youngest of the trio falls in love with the lothario Gypsy who actually partially reforms and they eventually marry. But alas, on the wedding night Gypsy has second thoughts and George easily convinces him to desert the pregnant Mary and return to life on the road. Riley Krull is the perfect ingénue and her duet “Funny House” with Cozart is a charmer. (If you listen closely that song will bring back memories of “When I Marry Mr. Snow” from Carousel).
Before all that happens we have to catch up with the other sisters. Kate Paul as Tiny will certainly bring back memories of the gangling, limber-limbed Charlotte Greenwood and her “love interest” Eustace Titherley (Christopher Reber) has a touch of Stanley Holloway in his humorous specialty routines. That leaves the adventurous middle sister Dorrie (Brittany Danielle) who latches on to Sir John Marsden (Michael Kern Cassidy). The gorgeous Brittany and knock-out handsome Cassidy exude a charming charisma and trip the light fantastic to the memorable “I Won’t Dance.”
Excepting the song “I Won’t Dance” there are no memorable numbers that will whet your appetite to hum them on your way out of the theater. That does not denigrate from the many rousing production numbers interspersed with the sentimental ballads that sometimes carries the plot along but more often than not are inserted for effect. Even with a simple request by a character “Do you have a song for us?”
The first act takes place in 1914 before the war and act 2 (originally it was a 3 act musical) takes us to 1915 through 1917. The ensemble numbers that open the show with gusto are given even better renditions with the male cast dressed in WW I khaki outfits preparing to entertain the troops at the front. This brings us to the obvious fact that this production does not stint on costumes (Scarlett Kellum). They seem to change with every scene.
All the cast are in excellent voice and many have their chance to be in the spotlight. Once again Bill Fahrner, with his sly grin and infectious stage presence steals every scene he is in. From a historical perspective this is a must see production.
Kedar K. Adour, MD