Music & Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by Russel Crouse & Howard Lindsay
Directed by Roberta MacDonald
Starring Forrest Richards
Golden Apple Dinner Theatre
25 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, FL
April 24 through June 17, 2007

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

It's common knowledge that the 1951 musical inspired by Perle Mesta was written as a star vehicle for Ethel Merman. Indeed, without a singing dynamo to recall "the hostess with the mostest" who became a U.S. ambassador, reviving this rather silly comedy takes a big risk. Luckily, Forrest Richards' vibrant vocal and comedic talents profit a production directed with class by a lady who has herself rivaled Merman many a time for the Apple. Happily, both local favorites invest their considerable talents in doing their best with what Irving Berlin provided. Though not his top score overall, "It's a Lovely Day" and "You're Just in Love" rank with his best songs. Still all too applicable satirically, "Can You Use Any Money Today?" may have grown in edginess.

Richards makes Mrs. Sally Adams one of those blonds reputed to have more fun. So why shouldn't she want a romance with deep-voiced, handsome, also blond Roy Johns' Cosmo Constantine? He occupies various high offices in Lichtenburg, culminating in Prime Minister. Believing his country must seek economic development on its own, he's the only official who doesn't want a U.S. loan. Everyone from stuffy charge d'affaires Maxwell (Kenneth C.S.Nelson) to Foreign Affairs Secretary Tantinnin (Eric Berkel) to old fashioned P.M. Sebastian (John Russo) jockeys for favor from Sally and, later, visiting American Justice and Congresspersons (Philip Alexander, Kyle Ennis Turoff, Berry Ayers). Who (other than Sally, of course) will eventually be the supply side of the economic solution but researcher Kenneth Gibson (Andrew Arrow)? On the other hand, his being a commoner almost puts a hitch in his romance with Princess Maria (Sarah Farnham, sweet of voice and countenance). They sing and dance most beautifully on that "Lovely Day" after they've won royal approval from the Grand Duchess (Beth Duda) and Duke (Ayers again, and funnier).

With help from a set with brightly painted Scenery and Lighting by Michael Newton-Brown, the production takes on a cartoonish quality, helped by colorful peasant and court Costumes designed by Dee Richards. Her clothes for Richards are a notable exception—sophisticated dresses, suits, gowns lavishly varied in patterns, textures, colors. A real fashion show. Dewayne Barrett's most exciting Choreograpy takes duos and sometimes the whole cast up and down stairways and through the Apple's aisles. When Sally and Kenneth counterpoint the amazing "You're Just in Love" at least four times on stage and various levels, enthusiasm knows no bounds. But even the corny "Ocarina" and dated "Washington Square Dance" have their charms. They're Berlin songs, after all, and Musical Director (also Pianist) John Visser respects his talent. So do Musicians Don Sturrock and Todd Lindamood (Keyboards) and Drummer Tom Suta.

Supporting cast and chorus members include Melliss Kenworthy, Josh Linderman, Catherine Cain, A. Diniz, M. R. Nelson, R. Pazicni, V. Russo, and Garie J. Williams. Eric Berkel is Dance Captain. Stage Management is by Alyssa Goudy. Robert Ennis Turoff is Coastal Theatre Productions' Producer. Show time: 2 hrs., 25 mins. w/15 min. Intermission.

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