by Adam Cohen . . .
Currently playing at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam this fabulous concoction is certain to become a staple of holiday theater offerings. Light, festive, romantic – this bauble from a talented team is solid entertainment.
Based on the 1945 Barbara Stanwyck film, the show features excellent witty songs with music by Jason Howland and lyrics from Amanda Yesnowitz. Writer Liz Sandor (Audrey Cardwell), fresh off the train to New York City, has big dreams. This small town dreamer hopes to make an impact on the world with articles that showcase women as independent, capable beings who can do more than cook a roast and raise a family. After being rejected from every magazine for writing exactly what the publishers want least, she meets editor Dudley Beecham (Raymond J. Lee). Beecham has a column that needs a writer and together they concoct an identity for Liz as a happily married homemaker with great recipes and home-making perfect marriage tips.
The column takes off quickly moving from monthly to weekly with Liz attracting readers across America – including the armed forces. When a decorated war hero Jefferson Jones (an abashedly good natured Josh Breckenridge) is invited for Christmas at Liz’s Connecticut farm for publicity and additional articles, high jinks ensue. Liz and Dudley have to quickly get her a husband and baby or their goose is cooked.
Armed with her recipe providing chef buddy Felix (a pert and warm-hearted James Judy) and enlisting the help of Dudley’s brother Victor (stoic but impish Matt Bogart) and housekeeper Norah (Tina Stafford) the ruse comes to life. But can Liz and Dudley keep the secret and ensure their success. Will love blooming risk the whole enterprise? The whole thing turns out happily and in style with lightweight charm for audiences of all ages.
This delightful, funny, urbane musical comedy – with a book from Patrick Pacheco and Erik Forest Jackson – will absolutely make you laugh. This accomplished production has zippy direction by Amy Anders Corcoran. Lawrence E. Moten III has created a clever set (including a lovely realistic sepia-toned New York City drop curtain) that seamlessly moves the action from New York City to a nicely modest Connecticut farmhouse.
The cast is top-notch dancing finely honed (choreography by Marjorie Failoni) with lovely singing all around. The finale is a compelling new holiday classic – “May You Inherit.” Cardwell makes a great Liz – sardonic at points but also winningly charming as she gets herself deeper into her new persona. She’s gifted with an array of strong numbers that firmly establish her character (“Tomorrow’s Woman” and evolution over time and ruse (“Recipe for Success” and “I’m Not Eleanor”). That she and Lee (dapper and buoyant) can woo so many into the scheme is a credit to their persuasive skills. Stafford has a nicely daffy manner especially as she must remember all the lies to go along with the scam.
Audiences will be equally wowed and pleased by an original offering not a variation of ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or ‘The Nutcracker’. The ensemble’s winning chemistry ensures a good time with fine performances and excellent charm.
Tickets and more information at Goodspeed.org. Performances now through December 30th.
Photos: Diane Sobolewski