“110 in the Shade” at 42nd Street Moon

“110 in the Shade” at 42nd Street Moon”

Carol Benet

True to its mission, 42nd Moon,  the small theater in San Francisco’s Embarcadero Gateway Theatre, produces another musical from the Great American Songbook.  “110 in the Shade” is not often seen but deserves to be.

Coming from a book named “The Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash, it hit broadway 50 years ago with its new name “110 in the Shade”  starring Geraldine Page and Darren McCavin.  It was then  turned into a popular movie using its original name “The Rainmaker”  that featured Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn and it eventually became a T.V. production.   “The Fantasticks” was revived on Broadway in 2007 with superstar Audra McDonald as Lizzie and

it remained a favorite of small theater troupes all over the world.

Composer Harvey Schmidt and lyricist Tom Jones were hot in the early 60s.  While college students at the University of Texas, Austin, they wrote “The Fantasticks”, a Broadway ikon that ran until January 13, 2002 with 17,162 performances—the longest continuous run of any show in American history, and the longest continuous run of any musical in the world.

The story is about a small Dust Bowl Texas town, familiar to the Texas composers, during the great draught. A chorus of 11 expresses everyday life in song and dance during these times but one motherless family, The Currys, stands out.  It consists of a father, two grown sons and a daughter who is about to come home from a trip to Sweetwater where they were hoping she would find a mate.  The brothers Jimmy (Elliott Hanson), Noah (James Schott) and father H.C. (Jesse Caldwell) anxiously await her arrival by train.  They want to know if she is engaged to anyone.

A discouraged Lizzie (Andrea Dennison-Laufer) arrives.  Nothing happened to her.  She is overweight and plain and does not know how to talk to men.  Noah is the most outspoken throughout about her inability to attract any man, especially the eligible sheriff File (Brian Watson) who everyone thinks is a widower.  The family arranges to have File come to their holiday picnic but he is reluctant to engage in any social life — picnics, dancing, poker playing or any other social interaction.

Suddenly a colorful cart with flashing lights arrives driven by its charismatic  owner, The Rainmaker Bill Starbuck (Keith Pinto), who promises to bring rain to them for $100.00.  He manages to convince the people to believe in him —all except Lizzie who thinks he’s a phoney.  But, above all, Starbuck wants to make Lizzie believe in herself.

Antics expressed in song and dialogs especially by Starbuck, Jimmy and his lover Snookie (Kyra Lynn Kozlenko) keep the play lively.  The rest of the cast and the delightful chorus also contribute to making this a most enjoyable musical comedy.

You all can guess about the outcome of the story before even seeing the play.  I won’t reveal it here.   Yes, it’s hackneyed but it contains the most wonderful music, performed by a talented cast that can sing and dance its way through any dry period.  Well directed by Josh Marx with the music direction of Dave Dobrusky, who excellently plays the piano accompaniment throughout.  The tech artists Brian Watson (set),  Bethany Deal (costumes), Michael Palumbo (lights) and Scottie Woodard (choreography)  all make this an entertaining and worthy, albeit almost forgotten, musical comedy. And thanks to 42 Street Moon for their ”eschewing of microphones” as it says in their statement in the Program book.  This way we can hear what the singers really sound like and avoid the tinny, misplaced sound created by microphones.

“110 in the Shade” at 42nd  Street Moon has an all too short of a run only through May12, 2019.  42ndstmoon.org or 415 255 8207.

About the Author

Carol BenetCarol Benet received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, where she won an Outstanding Teaching Award. She also received a B.A. in English and an M.A. in French Language and Literature from the University of Michigan. Her teaching assignments have been at UC Berkeley, UC Berkeley Extension, Dominican University and Washington State University. Currently she holds literature discussion groups in Marin County and San Francisco and is a critic of the arts for The Ark Newspaper and a contributor to ARTSSF.com and ForAllEvents.com.View all posts by Carol Benet →