Goodspeed 's The Most Happy Fella Will Warm You
By Karen Isaacs
Goodspeed is ending its 50th anniversary season with Frank Loesser's glorious The Most Happy Fella. Loesser is sometimes under appreciated as a Broadway composer. His career showed his great versatility and musicianship. After producing hit song after hit song for movies, he turned to Broadway and in about 15 years, turned out Where's Charley?, Guys and Dolls, and How to Succeed in Business, plus The Most Happy Fella.
The plot is both simple and touching. Tony, an aging farmer in Napa Valley is lonely and leaves a waitress at a San Francisco diner a piece jewelry and a note. It blossoms into a correspondence, but when asked for a photo, he sends not his own but that of Joe, his handsome and nomadic foreman instead. Rosabella, as he calls her, arrives to marry Tony who in his rush to meet her at the bus, has an accident. On her wedding night, she learns of the deception when she sees Joe. From that point on, the story has some soap opera qualities but it is also touching as both Rosabella and Tony learn what love is really all about. The show was based on the 1930s play, They Knew What They Wanted.
The musical is almost operatic in its use of music. The lushness of the songs relates to the lushness of the vineyards of Napa Valley. There are the comic relief songs -- "Oooh, My Feet", "Standing on the Corner", and "Big 'D'" but mostly you will remember the soaring melodies of "Joey, Joey, Joey," "Rosabella," "Don't Cry," and, of course, "Warm All Over."
Director Rob Ruggiero has done another outstanding job at taking this big musical and revealing its core to us. He is added by terrific scenery, costumes and lighting and a truly magnificent cast. Mamie Parris is both vulnerable, touch and confused as Rosabella while Bill Nolte makes Tony exactly what he is -- a not very bright, lonely middle-aged man who is grasping for happiness. Natalie Hill as Cleo, Rosabella friend and Doug Carpenter, as Joe, lead the supporting players.
The Most Happy Fella at Goodspeed, will truly make you feel, "Warm All Over." It runs through December 1.
For more information or reservations, contact the box office at the theater.
This review aired on WNHU, 88.7 FM and www.wnhu.net.