AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and Lyrics by Noël Coward
Devised by Alan Strachan, Gerald Frow & Wendy Toye
Directed by Brendon Martin
Presented by Stanford Repertory Theater
Nitery Theater (Old Union)
Stanford, CA/ (650) 725-5838

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Noël Coward was a man of many talents. Besides writing witty plays like "Private Lives" and "Blithe Spirit," he was a prolific songwriter.

"Cowardy Custard," presented by Stanford Repertory Theater, provides a tasty sampling of those songs, performed by four engaging young singers.

In this show devised by Alan Strachan, Gerald Frow and Wendy Toye, the 20 songs tell a story or satirize something. Directed by Brendon Martin, it starts on a snappy note with the foursome marching in singing "Has Anybody Seen Our Ship?".

Among the highlights are "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," sung by student Andre Amarotico and recent graduate Dante Belletti, and "Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington," sung by student Samantha Rose Williams. She and student Ellen Woods are featured in "Mad About You."

Belletti returns in "Mad About the Boy" as Amarotico seems indifferent. This song is an apparent reference to Coward's closeted homosexuality, but this production then steers away from that as the two women join in.

Other highlights are "Someday I'll Find You," followed by the concluding "I'll See You Again," featuring all four.

Woods is a sweet-voiced soprano, while Williams has a more operatic voice with a wide range. Local audiences may recall her as Eliza Doolittle in Broadway by the Bay's "My Fair Lady." Both men sing well, too.

All four are multi-talented, executing choreography by Jamie Yuen-Shore.

They're accompanied by three fine young musicians: Wyatt Smitherman on violin, Christopher Davis on bass and musical director Makulumy Alexander-Hills on piano.

The show is presented in the Nitery Theater in Old Union. It's an intimate space with four rows of theater seats on a riser plus round tables, mostly for four, dispersed through the rest of the space.

The only drawback is that it isn't air-conditioned, so it can become quite warm even though SRT provides a bottle of water at each seat.

Running about 75 minutes with no intermission, "Cowardy Custard" is the concluding feature of SRT's Noël Coward Festival. It featured several events, including a topnotch production of "Hay Fever," with Amarotico in the cast.

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