If you ask me…

- Tom Holehan


Who knew?  And you thought Olde Mystic Village in Mystic, Connecticut was all about ships, shops and sea life!  Since 2008, Cornerstone Productions has made a permanent home in the center of the village taking residence at the area's three-screen movie theatre.  One of the screening rooms is offered up for two performances weekly on Sunday and Monday afternoons at 4 pm for old-time musical revue productions put on by this small company of professional entertainers.  It all harkens back to - what their website informs us is - "neo-vaudeville musical variety shows and comedies".  One thing is for sure --  the producers seem to know their audience.

The current Cornerstone offering is called "Seaside Rendezvous" and is directed, written and choreographed by Karl Caster who, with his partner Hunter Charnow, also greet each and every patron at the bus (bus tours seem to be this theatre's bread and butter).  They also both seem ready, willing and able to usher, sell popcorn or run the lights if need be.  The four-member ensemble sing a variety of standards clearly delighting the vintage group in attendance and there's plenty of audience participation included.

Indeed, this cruise-ship style of entertainment offers a dash of song, a dollop of dance, a smidgen of burlesque-style humor and plenty of patter in between.  Is it polished, original and engaging?  Rarely.  But don't tell that to the happy patrons lapping it all up like fat cats craving rich cream.  Singers Michael Wesley Bunting and Colby Fuller are the stand-outs in the quartet and impress early on with a fast and furious Italian song sung with verve and perfect diction.  Their female counterparts don't shine as brightly but Caitlin Crosbie Doonan has a nice solo rendition of "Over the Rainbow" that certainly reached the audience.  Lauren Charnow fares better in the group numbers with songs like "Friendship", "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and "After You're Gone".

Technical credits at Cornerstone are primitive at best with two painted backdrops, few props and recorded music.  The cast is working very hard (they are positioned at the exits to say "goodbye" at the end of the show) and the whole production plus intermission is up and over in 90 minutes.  Time is also filled by the theatre's jovial stage manager, Tashia Levy, who probably isn't paid nearly enough as she does warm-up and patter before and during the show while also, presumably, running the musical backstage.  Her assistant stage manager, Mark Crawford performs double-duty too enlisted in both tap numbers while hawking t-shirts at intermission.

This is theatre on the cheap - produced quickly and somewhat efficiently giving its target audience exactly what they expect.  It seems to work for them.  Go figure.

"Seaside Rendezvous" continues at Cornerstone Productions in Mystic, Connecticut through August 30th.  For further information and ticket reservations call the box office at 888.838.2906 or visit their website at: www.cornerstoneproductions.org.

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