BEST OF CANDLELIGHT at Candlelight Music Theater
Candlelight Theater opens its third show of the season with a budget-friendly in-house production of BEST OF CANDLELIGHT, a cautious move with live theater around the world trying to achieve financial stasis. This show does not have a “book,” which saves money on licensing. The show takes us to Broadway; an assortment of solos, duets and production numbers. As previously stated, Candlelight is to be commended for being the first entertainment venue in the state to once again welcome grateful guests.
Boasting 51 years of existence, they have a nearly bottomless chest of pieces from classic shows to choose from. In fact, with this embarrassment of wealth, probably director Bob Kelly’s main worry was picking the perfect songs to match the cast.
With twenty-four songs performed from twenty-two shows (three ‘apps’ of HAIRSPRAY), it makes sense to consider that not all viewers are familiar with the program. The production lacked fluidity and ease. With no rhyme, reason, or particular sequence, an overzealous emcee (Tim Moudy) would catapult himself like a whirling dervish and explain how much he loved the next issue – and why we should, too. We have seen similar “Best of” productions with a decidedly more nuanced and sophisticated approach. A master of ceremonies (in a tuxedo) would provide context for the next issue. He would be a facilitator for the guests, building relationships and inspiring confidence when they receive a miniature sketch.
We don’t normally see two listed choreographers. Aisle Say knows that Dann Dunn has a background in Pit Pit Pit, so maybe he’s been brought in to oversee “Magic To Do” (PIPPIN) and “Cell Block Tango” (CHICAGO). Broadway productions or films. They have yet to be rigorously repeated. Dunn and Jody Anderson both created tight and exciting acts, with “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” (HELLO DOLLY), “Good Morning Baltimore” (HAIRSPRAY) and “Brotherhood of Man” (HOW TO SUCCEED, etc, etc, etc). .) Katherina Muniz and Phoebe Gavula were remarkable dancers, as was Bryan Jeffrey’s aerial split in “Easy Street” (ANNIE).
Language Update: Aisle Say was scratching her noggin after hearing the character of Tommy in the BRIGADON sequence speak in a Scottish brogue. His character, and that of Jeff, are American tourists.
Costume designer Timothy Lamont Cannon had his head on a swivel with many disparate numbers and a wide cast. I remember back in the 70s when Aisle Say would audition for one show after one show after another. He was full of vim and vigor (and yes, sometimes vitriolic) when a misguided and disbelieving director didn’t have the foresight to cast him).
Fifty years ago (OMG), the vast majority of casts were very thin. Then McDonald’s came along and the world turned upside down with processed foods. The waist lines have changed. Some actors seemed uncomfortable in their costumes. That said, Cannon and his team did a great job capturing the period of each issue. The ensemble numbers were very impressive. “Sunday Clothes” was a staple in her elegant suits and Yonkers NY.
Clayton Stacey once again presented a dazzling selection of wigs. Guess Tiara’s imposing pompadour was Dolly in “Sunday Clothes” was a Carol Channing hymn? Or maybe Marie-Antoinette.
While audience favorite Lindsay Mauck didn’t have a solo, she was in many numbers. Lindsay has charisma. She has a presence. Her smile is always inviting and exudes the love she has for the theater and its troupe.
The show numbers were delivered by Anthony Connell in “Maria”, WEST SIDE STORY. A wonderful triple threat performer, we wish his second solo was in this role of Anthony singing “No One’s Going To Harm You”, from a past production of SWEENEY TOOD. This number equates to the pathos of Sondheim’s most popular song, “Send In The Clowns”. I remember there was a plethora of handkerchiefs passed during his exquisite performance. (Aisle Say saw the original production with Angela and Len Cariou … three times!). Anthony Connell embraced our lost souls with this performance a few years ago. “Suddenly Seymour” is cute. It lacks the seriousness of the other. Big puff on that one.
Tiffany Dawn Christopher, following her supernova performance in BEEHIVE, was completely killed in “As We Stumble Along” (DROWSY CHAPERONE). Not a word said in the audience during this tour de force. A thunderous applause followed.
Tiara Green as Dolly was magnetic and flamboyant in “Sunday Clothes”. Rosemary Benson offered a heartbreaking “Some People” (GYPSY).
Drum roll. Now up to the award for the greatest actress in the legendary history of Candlelight. You really must be witnessing Tori Healy playing “He Vas My Boyfriend” (YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN) in person. No one can scold their lips like this irrepressible wonder. If she rumbled in front of me, I would wilt like sunflowers in my garden at the end of September. I would ask forgiveness for any transgression that she believed me to be guilty of. I would make a couple! Its characterization is reminiscent of the audience’s panoramic shot in Mel Brooks’ other classic, THE PRODUCERS. Remember when Hitler takes the stage and the entire audience is pictured with their mouths wide open in stunned surprise? Well, that’s how everyone felt open after watching Tori sing her anguished love song; a very, very different kind of love song about a very different kind of boyfriend.
The staff at Candlelight are very accommodating. The food portions were perfectly measured and delicious.
Beautiful photos of Tisa Della-Volpe
The show runs until October 31. Next is A Christmas Carol by Candlelight, opening November 20. CandlelightTheatreDelaware.org 302.475.2313.