Thursday, November 26, 2009

TOYLAND IS A REAL TREAT! A review by Kathleen Szmit

Beat the bah, humbugs with BHS holiday show

With all the unpleasantness happening in the world, getting into the holiday spirit can be challenging. I highly recommend taking time to see the latest show from the Barnstable High School Drama Club, Babes in Toyland. For a mere $10 you’ll chuckle, you’ll groove, you’ll grin, and you’ll come away in a much happier and more festive mood than when you walked in.

Babes brings together myriad Christmas and fairy tale folk to tell the tale of Mary Quite Contrary, her charming beau Tom, the dastardly Barnaby, and their somewhat epic, but mostly humorous, adventure that takes place somewhere near the North Pole.
It seems the greedy Barnaby has designs on fair Mary, but not because he’s truly in love with the lass. No, Barnaby happens to know that upon marrying, Mary will receive a sizeable inheritance, money that Barnaby desires.

There’s just one problem: Mary is in love, but with Tom, son of Santa’s chief Toymaker. Tom, as it just so happens, loves Mary, as well, and plans to propose. Before he gets the chance, though, Barnaby, enlisting the assistance of two goofy entrepreneurs, sets in motion a plan to get Tom out of the picture and have Mary – and her money – all for himself.

Those familiar with the BHSDC know that when they put on a show they go all out. Babes is no exception. I do have to admit, however, that as I was far from being in the holiday spirit, I had my qualms about seeing the show, not quite ready for jingling bells and “ho, ho, hos.”

When I heard the Christmas music playing over the speakers of the Performing Arts Center at BHS, my inner Scrooge cringed. I took my seat, and a deep breath, and waited for the curtain to rise.

When it did, boy did that inner Scrooge get a kick in the pants. Spread out across the stage were cheeky elves dressed in festive red and green, busily wrapping packages under the encouraging eye of the Toymaker, nicely played by BHS English teacher Ed O’Toole.

As the orchestra played from the pit beneath the stage, the elves burst into cheery song, giving old Scrooge another sharp nudge. Then Head Elf #1 and Elf #2, well done by Michelle McGaughey and Kristen Corbett, kicked off the story, setting in motion a show filled with rapid-fire dialog, well-timed jokes, and some fantastic song and dance.

Not even halfway through the first act I realized Scrooge had left the building, leaving me to enjoy the hilarious antics of Gonzorgo and Ronrico as they attempted to help the evil Barnaby with his sinister plans to eliminate Tom and claim Mary and her money.
As the dunce-ish duo, Jeremy Peacock and Travis Manni were laugh-out-loud funny, while Tom Myers was decadently wicked as the villainous Barnaby, the trio garnering big laughs throughout the show.

Kat Lovett was suitably sweet as Mary, bringing a truly melodious voice to the role, while Sean Potter was excellent as Tom, boasting a smooth singing voice of his own. Olivia Nee was winning as Mother Hubbard, Mary’s mother, and Shannon Pacella was a perfect Bo Peep in her pink bonnet and poufy frock, while Ethan Pulsifer was splendidly jolly as Santa.

A BHSDC show wouldn’t be complete without an appearance by the infamous Keystone Cops, led in this performance by the entertaining Andrew Harmon. With backup from cops including Charlie Ferguson, Nick Bancroft, Michael Palmer, Caleb Seaver, Igor Anastacio, Charlie Nash, Blake Cordeiro, and more, Harmon performed an impressive version of the Tarantara song first heard in Pirates of Penzance.

One of the finest and most energetic performances, however, came from newcomer Adam Barosy as the Jester, getting everyone clapping as he masterfully rapped out one of the show’s main numbers, one of several special songs written by Roy Richard. Look for some terrific choreography from Shannon Pacella, as well.

I also can’t forget to mention the adorable sheep: Morgan Nailor, Rachel Corliss, Nora Canady, Rachel Gardner, Sophia Zuniga, Olivia Chute, Kate Walsh, and the hysterical Anne Kennedy who got her kicks bruising the shins of Barnaby, much to the audience’s delight.

Karen Mannal deserves many kudos for her stylish costumes, including the frightening bogeymen.

The sets, created by a team including Matheus Fiuza, CJ-Cea Curry, Charlie Pineo, Kevin Shanley, Justin Massarsky, Conor Slack, Lindsey Bill, Alex Ferreira, Michelle McGaughey, and Tom Crabtree, are eye-catching and thematic, enhanced wonderfully by lighting from Chad Goddard. Stage manager Cea-Curry also did a fantastic job of keeping the show moving along nicely, in spite of a set glitch.

Because the show is double-cast to give all of Barnstable’s stars a chance to shine, I recommend seeing the show twice. It’s certainly worth it.

As Babes came to its conclusion – a happy ending for all – and the snow began to fall inside the theatre, I realized that I had quite a smile on my previously Scroogelike face. What really sold me on the magic of the show was the reaction of the children in the seats nearby. On their faces, inspired by the merriment and mayhem of Babes in Toyland, was the true joy of Christmas; such a wondrous gift indeed.

Later, Scrooge.

Remaining performances of the BHS Drama Club production of Babes in Toyland at the BHS Performing Arts Center, 744 West Main St., Hyannis are Nov. 27, and 28 at 7 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees Nov. 28, and 29. All seats are $10.

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