Farcical, fun, a piece of fluff and above all, enjoyable, are apt descriptions of “Where’s Charley?” the Frank Loesser play offered this week by the College Light Opera Company at Highfield Theatre in Falmouth.
Although the house wasn’t packed opening night, the cast, directed by Greg White, with musical direction by Miles Plant, did a fine job. Beth Burrier was the associate artistic director.
The story takes place in the 1890s and concerns the dilemma of what happens when two young women visit two young Oxford University students, and they are supposed to be chaperoned by the aunt of one of the men. The musical was based on an 1892 play, “Charley’s Aunt,” by Brandon Thomas. It was adapted by Mr. Loesser and George Abbott for Broadway in 1948; there was a Broadway revival in 1974.
Charley Wykeham and Jack Chesney, played by Spencer Gonzalez and Logan Hoy Tucker, respectively, are the two young men. They are at Jack’s house. When Charley’s aunt is a no-show, Charley decides to “be” her, which leads often to the question of “Where’s Charley?”
Technically speaking, the set by Oscar Escobedo was beautiful. Lighting by Angela Mantel played a more prominent role in this piece, often setting or complementing the mood. Some of these effects seemed like they were from the palette of Maxfield Parrish. The costumes by Chloe Moore were well done; they flowed. They were flattering. The only odd note, of course, was the costume of Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez, “Charley’s aunt.” That added to the farce.
The orchestra was also good, mixing harmoniously with vocals.
Spencer Gonzalez was splendid in his role of Charley and his aunt; he played it broadly, but that is/was the point. He has a good voice; in his duet with his love interest, Amy Spettigue, played by Anastasia Lallos in “Make a Miracle,” their voices go well together. But what needs highlighting is his dancing. With choreography by Manley Gavich, Spencer had a terpsichorean solo that showed how nimble and graceful he can be. This accompanied “Once in Love with Amy” in the second act.
Another standout in the show is/was Anastasia Lallos. As Amy, she shows her comic and singing skills in “The Woman in the Room” and in her duet with Spencer in “Make a Miracle.” She often steals the show from the others, a comic foil to their more serious tones.
Accompanying the girls to Jack’s home is Amy’s uncle, Mr. Spettigue, played by Ryan Wolpert. In a subplot he “falls” for Charley’s aunt and pursues her literally for much of the play. Also involved in this subplot are Sir Francis Chesney (David Young) and the real Donna Lucia D”Alvadorez, played by Paula Berry. Ms. Berry has a fine operatic voice, which she displays in “Lovelier Than Ever.” She played Irene Roth in last week’s “Crazy For You.” They are fine in their roles. She is the Kurt Weill/Lotte Lenya Scholarship recipient this year.
Jack’s girl is Kitty Verdun, portrayed by Alaina Mueller. Their duet, “My Darling, My Darling,” and their contribution to “Better Get Out of Here,” with Spencer and Anastasia, were enjoyable. The voices of all the leads are good. Alaina played Tess last week in “Crazy For You.” It was nice to see her in a more prominent role, which showed more of her acting abilities.
The ensemble pieces this year are wonderful. Their combined voices have an energy that can sweep you away. “Lovelier Than Ever” and “The Years Before Us” are especially noteworthy. The show stopper though, was the audience’s interaction with the Photographer, played by Jack Humphrey. We got to sing “Once in Love With Amy.” It’s arguably the most enduring song from this show, and for good reason.
One last person of note is Patricia, voiced by Carlyn Barenholz. Her role was not listed in the playbill. She leads the female chorus in “The Gossips” and duets with Jack in “Where’s Charley?” Her vocal skills are significant, making a contribution to what could have been a minor role.
And one more comment. The show also revolves around romantic love and marriage. It’s no different today. But women and men more often married for money, not love, at the turn of the 19th century. That fact drives a lot of the play.
So I encourage you to attend “Where’s Charley?” It plays nightly at 8 through Saturday with a Thursday matinee at 2 PM. Tickets are $35, with a small fee. The box office at 58 Highfield Drive, Falmouth, is open Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM, or go to www.CollegeLightOperaCompany.com.