By Marcina Zaccaria
Irish Repertory Theatre was courageous to present Meet Me in St. Louis, a Holiday Special In Song and On Screen. Artistic Director Charlotte Moore, who appeared in the original Broadway cast, adapts and directs this musical theater favorite with Book by Hugh Wheeler and Songs by Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane. Melissa Errico leads a multi-cultural cast, featuring Shereen Ahmed, William Bellamy, Rufus Collins, Kerry Conte, Ali Ewoldt, Kathy Fitzgerald, Ian Holcomb, Austyn Johnson, Jay Aubrey Jones, Kylie Kuioka, Ashley Robinson, and Max von Essen.
Fanciful narration guides us through The Kensington Stories, originally written by Sally Benson, on which the musical is based. Through 1903-1904 in St. Louis, Missouri, we follow the Smith family. Esther dreams of falling in love, while Lon is bound for Princeton. Mr. Smith is set to move to New York. Finally, the players draw dance cards at a ball, before preparing to attend the World’s Fair. An absolutely smooth, brilliantly rehearsed ensemble of performers sing though the musical theater favorites like “The Boy Next Door,” “A Touch of the Irish,” “The Trolley Song,“ and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Why are we drawn to the small screen this Season? Perhaps, it might be that it has been so long since we have all been able to enjoy an entire musical. Irish Repertory Theatre’s Meet Me in St. Louis, feels both old world and futuristic. It embraces a new digital technology where the performers seem lifted right off the screen. Viewing glorious period costumes and meticulously designed sets, we suspend our disbelief, overlooking that the performers are not all in one room. The edited, filmed experience moves with a swift pace. We find ourselves comfortably looking in from our computer screens on moments at the Smith Residence. Carefully crafted images guide us through the changing of Summer to Autumn. Whimsical images of the trolley take us to the end of Act I.
When the musical finally moves to a Ballroom, the festive environment has all of the ingenuity of a full-scale Broadway production, while offering the radiance of performance on the small screen. Irish Repertory Theatre made every attempt to make it a complete viewing experience, offering a Theatre@Home Kit, not to be missed. While I didn’t make myself an Irish burger, I was inspired to get a hot chocolate with marshmallows during the 10 minute intermission. Watching Act II gave me a warm, enchanted feeling. Listening to the glorious sounds, while appreciating the Christmas trees and turn of the century fabrics, making Meet Me in St. Louis an almost divine holiday experience.
Catch this one if you can, while it’s still available on You Tube. It’s running until January 2. www.IrishRep.org