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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
The skeleton, if you'll pardon the expression, story of a widow who rents a haunted cottage in 1900 is nicely fleshed out by Mellon's book. The ghost of the gruff charismatic Captain Gregg not only has everything Lucy Muir wants but everything she lacks. He encourages her to stand up to the snooty sisters-in-law who want to adopt her son and guides her through writing his reminiscences which become a best-seller.
Mellon, a minister off-stage, leaves open the question of how much of Captain Gregg Lucy subconsciously shapes to suit her wants and needs. He makes her adult son a pragmatic minister who is less in touch with the spiritual than the mother he sees as sweet and simple. Lucy asks the Captain what it's like where he is, a question which he and Mellon leave to our imagination.
The production is a little too long and some of it is problematic. Miles Blaine, the dapper dilettante who tries to seduce Lucy, is too easy an excuse for her to remain single all her life. But the music is lilting, charming and often robustly funny as in "Blood and Swash", the slightly overlong number describing the swashbuckling book, and "She's a Damn Fine Wench"" sung by the boys in the beer hall. "I Will Always Be There" is a haunting ballad in the best sense. Both score and Mellon's fleet heart-felt direction have a classic Broadway musical comedy air, more Kismet than A Little Night Music.
The co-stars might wing this ghost on its way to the Great White Way. James Barbour is everything a rakish raw-edged sea captain should be, as opposed to the sinister elegance of Rex Harrison in the movie and Edward Mulhare in the TV series. His wicked chortle is somewhere between a bark and a snort, and he has perfect control over his magnificent voice. He's superbly matched by Lynne Winterstellar as a down-to-earth Mrs. Muir whose voice and beauty are flawless.
The solid supporting cast is headed by Kevin Bailey as Miles Blaine, whose fine tenor almost seduces Mrs. Muir; a bracingly cranky comic turn by Brooks Almy as Martha, the housekeeper; Kate Fuglei, as chilly sister-in-law Eva Muir; Harmony Goodman who makes an exotic waif of the other sister, Helen. In Act II Mellon develops interesting relationships between Mrs. Muir and her now adult children, Anna (Katharine McPhee), an aspiring music hall performer, whose professional choice appalls Cyril the minister, never Lucy's most congenial child and now, in the smooth hands of Paul Denniston, a stuffy prig who has to learn about love all over again.
Excellent sound effects evoke the foghorns, gulls and creaks of Gull Cottage. Craig Siebels' deft scenic design manages to leave room on the small stage for dancers and still construct a background with a central bed, a desk, a stove and several upper levels for all the other locales. Steven Young's lighting design is a little too dim at first but he makes the Captain's first entrance everything a ghost deserves. Shon LeBlanc's costume design has a sure sense of character. The Ghost wears black and it never looked better.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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