Sunday, September 28, 2008

Main-Travelled Roads

Charming ‘MAIN-TRAVELLED ROADS’ at Actors’ Summit

‘MAIN-TRAVELLED ROADS,’ now on stage at Actors’ Summit, is a charming musical penned by Richard Rodgers Award winners Dave Hudson and Paul Libman.

It is based on the short stories of Hamlin Garland, whose tales of American rural life is said to have inspired such writers as John Steinbeck and Theodore Dreiser.

The musical is set in turn-of-the-century Wisconsin, and portrays Midwestern farm life and the struggles of young lovers as they come in contact with the area’s various cultures and traditions.
The story revolves around several young couples. One duo, Will and Aggie, split up over a misunderstanding caused by a broken wagon wheel. As a result, Will leaves town and Aggie marries someone she is not in love with because she wants to escape the emotional pain of the loss of Will. Unfortunately, she finds herself in an abusive relationship. Then there is the “creamery man” who is looking for a wife and has his eyes on a wealthy young woman, who is not interested in him. Meanwhile, Nina, a Dutch woman has eyes for the “creamery man” and they eventually wind up together.

This is a light, happy musical, so all’s well that end’s well. So, after a six-year absence, Will shows up on Aggie’s doorstep. He professes his undying love. And they run off to New England, where he is now a wealth young business tycoon. And, of course, the creamery man and Nina live happily every after.

The plot might sound a little complicated but the show is easy to follow as the well-integrated songs bridge the segments together. Whether lighthearted, serious, or silly, each musical interlude gives a slice of each character’s personality, hopes and dreams. Such songs as “Small Town Telegraph” and “Creamery Man” bring smiles and “You Can’t Come Home” makes the eyes well.

Though she has over-directed several of the scenes, distracting from the words by drawing attention to movements, the Actors’ Summit production, under the direction and choreography of Sasha Thackaberry generally works well.

The four actors slip in and out of their 11 characters easily. The vocal sounds are generally good, the musical accompaniment by Evie Morris, is excellent.

Kathleen Culler sparkles as Aggie. She has a fine singing voice and lights up the stage. She does an excellent job of creating and maintaining her characterizations.

C. J. Bonde has some delightful moments as Nina and shows good tenderness as Delia, an understanding town folk.

Keith Stevens is charming as Will and has some excellent musical moments. His role as the mop-coiffed, cross-dressing Mrs. Haldeman (Nina’s mother) brought prolonged laughter in each of his appearances.

Stephen Brockway is properly nasty as Dave (Aggie’s husband) and charming as the “creamery man.”

Special notice: Paul Libman and David Hudson, the shows authors, will be in attendance at the Saturday night, October 4 performance of ‘MAIN-TRAVELLED ROADS.’ Besides viewing the show, Actors’ Summit’s Artistic Director, A. Neil Thackaberry, will discuss with them the possibility of producing the duo’s new musical based on the works of John Steinbeck.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘MAIN-TRAVELLED ROADS’ is a charming musical which gets an excellent production at Actors’ Summit. If you want to spend a pleasant evening at the theatre, see this show