"THE MOST HAPPY FELLA" SINGS TO THE HEART

By Bonnie Goldberg

 

In Napa Valley, California, Tony Esposito knows he isn't smart or handsome or young, but he still wants to be a "most happy fella." The owner of a successful grape farm, he frequents a diner far from home and sees a lovely young lady who stirs his heart. In his broken English, he leaves her a note proposing marriage. His "Rosabella," the girl of his dreams, finds a valuable stick pin as her waitress "tip."

To become better acquainted with Tony and his Rosabella, get swept up in their unconventional courtship at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam in their wonderful production of Frank Loesser's stirring "The Most Happy Fella" until Sunday, December 1. It originally opened on Broadway over five decades ago in 1956.

An agreeable and kind Tony, a gentle giant of a man Bill Nolte, has believed the messages from his sister Marie (Ann Arvia) that he is too old and too foolish to ever find love. She cautions him to forget his dreams of a wife and babinos and concentrate on growing and harvesting his grapes.

At the diner that fateful day, he leaves his love note and unusual tip, encouraging his Rosabella (Mamie Parris) to write to him. She doesn't quite believe his words of affection but, strangely, she responds by postcard. When they exchange photos, Tony sends her a picture of Joe, his handsome foreman (Doug Carpenter) so when she finally arrives she is surprised and disappointed to discover whom she agreed to marry.

Unfortunately Tony has a severe accident on the way to meet her train and the doctor (Michael Deleget) fears he is dying. With compassion, his Rosabella agrees to marry him before he dies. What happens between Rosabella and Joe and between Rosabella and Tony, when Tony recovers, are at the heart of this grand musical. Comic relief is provided big time by Cleo (Natalie Hill), another waitress at the diner, and one of Tony's hard working team, Herman (Kevin Vortmann) as they kick up their heels in spirited fashion in "Big D." Beautiful hand painted backdrops of grape vines invite you into this heart warming story set in the early 1950's.

For tickets ($28 and up), call Goodspeed, on the Connecticut River in East Haddam, at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 (select 2 p.m.), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (select 6:30 p.m.). During Thanksgiving week, Monday 11/25 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Friday 11/29 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m, Saturday 11/30 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 1 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Let the vineyards of the Napa Valley squeeze your heart with the juice of joy as an unlikely romance blooms under its leaves.

 

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