CONNECTICUT CRITICS CIRCLE
Theater review: Glimmerglass, Spirit of Broadway Theater, Norwich, CT.
Published in Metroline News Magazine, Late March, 2008
Glimmerglass Shimmers at Spirit of Broadway
By Tony Schillaci and Don Church
A world premiere musical! In Norwich ? Who woulda thunk?
That's exactly what is now playing at the seventy-four seat , black-box Spirit of Broadway
Theater, housed in a restored antique firehouse at 24 Chestnut Street in Norwich .
Glimmerglass, with a book by Jonathan Bolt, music by Douglas J. Cohen and lyrics by
Ted Drachman, is directed by out artistic director Brett Bernardini, who 11 years ago
decided that it was high time for a theater in downtown Norwich dedicated to launching
This new production is based on James Fenimore Cooper's The Leatherstocking Tales.
The piece features hero Natty Bumpo, known by European settlers as "Leatherstocking"
and "the trapper", and by Native Americans as "Pathfinder," "Deerslayer," and
Leatherstocking is played in an older incarnation by Richard G. Rogers, and as a young
idealistic outdoorsman by Mark Christine, both members of Actors Equity. Each
possesses a fine theater voice, blending beautifully in their duet, Far Away. Young Mr.
Christine's portrayal is particularly appealing as the vulnerable, shy and awkward
frontiersman; his voice is pure and right on the mark.
The two leading ladies, Holly Pierson (Judith) and Christine Nolan, ( Elizabeth ) give the
audience the gift of gorgeously stage-trained voices which are closely identified with
Broadway musicals. Ms. Pierson, a recent graduate of North Carolina School of the Arts,
is destined for stage stardom with her looks, voice and presence. Ms. Nolan's beautiful
voice is given only one spotlight in which to shine, yet shine it does.
Rounding out the singing stars in this show are Brad Heikes (Harry) whose ballsy
swagger is matched by his ballsy voice, and Keithon Gipson, (Chingachgook) who gives
us an audible glimpse of his trained operatic gifts. Many of the songs given to Mr. Gipson
to sing are too lightweight for his big Grammy-nominated voice. In a non-singing role as
an older Harry, Dan Adams gives a strong, well-rounded performance with a natural ease.
Glimmerglass began its journey at the Village Theater in Issaqua , Washington and then
had more development at Goodspeed Musicals. This current production is a world
premiere, and it's encouraging that there are composers, lyricists and book writers of this
caliber who are writing new American musicals.
The composer shows promise but needs to offer more variety, from melodious ballads to
rousing show-stoppers. Two of the songs simply stop with no ending. The composer and
lyricist should complete them instead of shortchanging the audience and depriving the
singers of deserved applause. There are some lovely songs which need further
development, (Glimmerglass, Why Can't I Speak) two that need revision (Setting Sun,
Hawkeye) and one that could easily be dropped (Skin). The reprise of the title song
Glimmerglass at the finale, which gives hope for the future, is sung as a solemn drone,
and would benefit from a more rousing and joyous arrangement.
The book needs tightening to bring clarity to the story and improve the show's pace. If it
ran without an intermission the drama of this powerful story would be heightened with
increased tension, conflict, resolution and fully realized characterizations.
Brett Bernardini wears a number of feathers in his hat for Glimmerglass. He not only
directed but also designed the set and costumes. The imaginative forest set, consisting
of full size cut trees, allowed the actors to use Bernardini's blocking to effectively create
an illusion of hoardes of soldiers and Indians in the battle scenes.
The cast of fifteen consists of many young performers for whom the Spirit of Broadway
Theater offers a training ground for future careers on the stage. Many of them, who
appear as townsfolk, have already developed stagecraft and good voices.
The fine five-piece orchestra, led by Jeffery Lodin at the piano, is reminiscent of the kind
of sweet off-broadway sound produced by The Fantastiks and Little Mary Sunshine.
Despite some lackluster moments with the book and some of the music, this is a
thoroughly enjoyable evening in the theater. The audience affirmed this opinion with its
enthusiastic applause at the curtain calls.
Those who enjoy American musical theater should call now for tickets (through April 6th)
- (860) 886-2378.
The next production at the Spirit of Broadway Theater is The Last Session. It runs from
April 30 through June 1, 2008, starring country singer Kevin Wood. One of this new
musical's main characters is gay and has AIDS - so purchasing tickets quickly is highly
recommended to Metroline readers.
The Spirit of Broadway Theater is a forty-five minute drive from Hartford , an hour from
Providence , and about twenty five minutes from Groton/New London. This theater is
earning its place in Connecticut 's performing arts heritage by offering original American
Brett Bernardini's passion for his broadway baby deserves our support.
For Connecticut theater news, visit www.ctcritics.org
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