On Cedar Street – a New Musical at Berkshire Theatre Co. – Review by Karen Isaacs

Maybe I’m just a pushover for a gentle romance., but I was delighted with On Cedar Street.

You will hear more of the new musical On Cedar Street, which is having its world premiere at the Berkshire Theatre Company through Sept. 2


First of all, because it has top-notch people involved, the book is by Emily Mann, a Tony Award winner; music by composers Lucy Simon (The Secret Garden), co-composer Carmel Dean (music director for multiple Broadway shows); and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (Jelly’s Last Jam, Working). It’s directed by Susan H. Schulman, whose list of Broadway musical credits and award nominations is extensive. It is based on the novel, Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. I hadn’t read the novel, so I went into the show with no preconceived notions or knowledge of the plot or characters.

Then there’s the cast headed by Stephen Bogardus and Lauren Ward. Among their credits are multiple award nominations for Matilda, Violet, Passion, Love! Valour! Compassion!.

The supporting cast is equally talented and experienced.

On Cedar Street left me happy. It is about people I can recognize, who seem like people I know, who have had difficulties in their lives but have persevered and are willing to take a chance on love. It is about overcoming loss and loneliness.

Addie and Louis live next door to each other. He’s a retired English teacher who nursed his wife through her final illness; Addie is a widow with a troubled son and grandson. Each has had heartbreak – Addie’s daughter was killed by a car at a young age; Louis fell in love with another woman, causing heartbreak to all.

As in many romances, it starts unexpectedly and, in this case, strangely. From there, it gently develops as these two people must be willing to take a chance. Neither is necessarily looking for romance and certainly, the residents of the small town (Holt, Colorado) don’t necessarily approve. They can’t forgive Louis for the affair. Addie also must deal with her son, Gene, who has screwed up his career, marriage, and his son (Hayden Hoffman), because of guilt about his sister’s death.

A major side issue is conflict between Ruth Clark (a terrific Lana Gordon) as a town council member concerned about pollution, the environment, and the drought and Lloyd Beckman and his son (Russell) – who oppose everything she stands for. They are angry that fireworks won’t be part of the Independence Day holiday due to the fire dangers.

Yes, parts of the show need work.

But the plusses far outweigh the problem areas.

Let’s start with the extraordinary performances of Stephen Bogardus as Louis and Lauren Ward as Addie. They captured me from the very beginning. Bogardus still has the voice and looks of a leading man, and Ward brings a deceptive charm to her role as the mother and grandmother torn between finding happiness and helping her son. That she wavers adds to the honesty of the story. How do you tell a hurt, damaged child the truth? How do you learn to stand up for yourself?

Another aspect of On Cedar Street was the score. Though there wasn’t a list of songs in the program, I jotted down the titles (or some of the lyrics) of a number of songs I would love to hear again. The opening song, about the difficulty sleeping older people have, was funny and honest.

Ruth has a delightful song, “Skunk at the Garden Party” about the need to be the person who speaks the unpleasant or unwanted truth.

But it is Louis and Addie who have the best songs, from “Last Thing I Need,” to “Prairie Rose,” to “Girl We Were” and “Another Chance.”

The scenic design by Reid Thompson was all wood tones, though the moving panels did not add much. They could be eliminated. Lighting designer Alan C. Edwards, projection designer Shawn Edward Boyle and sound designer Julian Evans all did great work. It was wonderful not to feel the sound was too loud.

Of course, Charley, the dog that helps bring Jamie out of his shell, is a charmer. He was played by Addison and handled by Rochelle Scudder.

For tickets visit BerkshireTheatre.org

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