“Good News” at Goodspeed Musicals

By Tom Nissley

Goodspeed Musicals has kicked off its fiftieth anniversary season with a 1927 musical about the purpose of college and its influence on life after education. In a book and score by B G DeSilva, Lew Brown, and Ray Henderson, it manages to raise every concern from the place of (dangerous) sports in campus life to the place of women in scientific careers, not omitting the class system on campus and the deep-seated belief that college is about fun, frolic, and who you’re going to marry. The book took me racing to the Internet, searching for where, in 1927, there was a coeducational college with sororities, an Astronomy observatory (on a hill), and a heavily jock football team with a dancing mascot and a school band? Because those are the features that “TAIT College” offers. (There was a Tait family connected with Penn State, btw. The University of Wisconsin might have been a model, too, and its colors, like TAIT’s, are red and white).

Like almost every show I’ve seen at Goodspeed, “Good News” features riveting dancing by a well-honed ensemble that will take your breath away. Vince Pesce (director) and David Crane seem to be the team that presided over the high-speed fancy footwork, and Drew Nellessen is credited as the Dance Captain. Just for the dancing, go!

But you’ll also be happy with the sparkling performance of this young, energetic cast, including Ross Lekites, Barry Shafrin, Tessa Faye, Chelsea Morgan Stock, Graham Keen, and Lindsay O’Neil as the key students. Mark Zimmerman and Max Perlman are brilliant as the Coach and his Trainer. Miles J. McHale is stupendous as a big, dumb, and wealthy ‘Beef’ Saunders. Beth Glover is terrific in the role of Professor Kenyon, who has broken several glass ceilings (woman professor, head of department, respected scientist) by being dedicated to her career.

A surprising number of well-loved old melodies surface in “Good News,” and they are intrinsic to the not-so-zany plot. Varsity Drag is the happiest dance music and the highest and best dance number. But you’ll probably go home humming ‘the moon belongs to everyone -- the best things in life are free.’

Wonderful set (Court Watson), outrageously fine costumes (Tracy Christensen), good lighting and sound (Charlie Morrison and Jay Hilton), and Michael O’Flaherty’s expert musical direction all contribute to this excellent production. If you don’t get to see it, you’re missing a very happy afternoon or evening at Goodspeed.

Tickets at www.goodspeed.org, or 860-873-8668.

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre

May 2, 2013

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