110 in the Shade charms at the Gateway Theater

42nd Street Moon’s 110 in the Shade cast singing “The Rain Song” at the Gateway Theater.

110 IN THE SHADE: Musical. Based on play THE RAINMAKER by N. Richard Nash. Music by Harvey Schmidt, lyrics by Tom Jones and book by Nash. 42nd Street Moon, Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA. (415) 255-8207 or www.42ndstmoon.org.

April 24 – May 12, 2019

110 in the Shade charms at the Gateway Theater. Rating: ★★★★☆

First there was the play, (The Rainmaker, 1954), then there was the movie (The Rain Maker, 1956), then there was the Broadway musical 110 in the Shade (1963) and now there is marvelous remount of 110 in the Shade at the Gateway Theater, It is a “feel good” play for these troubled times so bring all the family. It is basically a love story but you will find family loyalties, the art of the con man, jaded historical comments about women, even a rift on Shakespeare’s “what’s in a name.”

The writers knew their craft and deftly inserted songs with titles that dovetail in the plot. You may be humming a couple of those songs on your way out of the theatre if tears are wiped away.  

The time is 1936 in a small Southeastern town suffering a severe drought that threatens crops and cattle with the Townsfolk bemoaning “Another Hot Day” but the Fourth of July Picnic is going to be held. There is joy for the men of the Curry family (Pa H.C., Noah and Jim) because “Lizzie’s Coming Home” still without a prospect for marriage but has hopes to hook up with “widower” sheriff Jim File (“Love Don’t Turn Away”). The Curry Clan descend on File under the pretext of an invitation to play poker (“Poker Polka”) but File is aware it is a ruse to have him hook up with Lizzie and that is not to be even though File’s wife has divorce him and he like Lizzie is insecure. Older brother Noah insists that Lizzie has to “loosen up” because “You Got to Get a Man.”  Later it is suggested that it helps to be a little “Raunchy.”

Before the above happens con-man “rain-maker” Bill Starbuck blows in with fancy talk and bright jacket insisting that he can bring rain in 24 hours and the townsfolk kick in $100 for the promised service. In this sequence the authors throw in a big production number “The Rain Song.” Lizzie challenges the claims and bravado of Starbuck who in turn recognizes her insecurity “You’re Not Foolin’ Me” and exits but you know he will be back.

When File and Lizzie meet at the picnic they sing a beautiful duet “A Man and a Woman.” This give Lizzie hope until Noah destroys Lizzie’s that hope viciously telling her she is plain not beautiful and destined to be an “Old Maid.” This end of act 1 brought some of the audience to tears.

Never fear there is still one more act to go and you will be treated to the best songs in the show. In the production number the Townspeople are prophetic and believe that “Everything Beautiful Happens at Night.” Starbuck however is more personal and prays to the “Evening Star.”  He meets Lizzie suggesting while she is not plain her name is and changing it to “Melisande” would be more appropriate. Starbuck physically and metaphorically encourages her let down her hair. Their duet “Simple Little Things” is a humdinger and they go off to spend the night together “Is it Really Me”.

For a change of pace to add to the feeling of love is in the air the song and dance “Little Red Hat” by young Jim Curry and Snookie is a much needed show stopper. When File comes looking to arrest Starbuck everyone is reluctant and there is an emotional tug of war between File, Starbuck and Lizzie with “Wonderful Music” before a reprise of “The Rain Song” and a knockout finale and the rains actually appear.

Andrea Dennison-Laufer as “Lizzie Curry has a beautiful delicate soprano to match her transition from plain to internally beautiful Lizzie and her kisses with Keith Pinto’s Starbuck sizzle. The versatile Keith Pinto dominates any stage he graces and this musical is just up his alley although it barely matches his star roles in Me and My Girl and Dames at Sea. He generates audience excitement with his entrances. Jesse Caldwell as H.C. Curry, Elliott Hanson as “Jimmy Curry” and James Schott as “Noah Curry” give sold performances and it is Hanson who carries the humor in the play. Brian Watson as File gives a serviceable patina to his role but the range of his singing voice is limited. Kyra Lynn Kozlenko as “Snookie” lights up the stage.

Brian Watson’s set is a charmer with a working wind mill and wooden corral fences surrounding

an open center stage to allow the dancers room to perform Scottie Watson’s basic but appropriate choreography. His dance steps for “The Little Red Hat” are a delight.

Running time two hours and 20 minutes including intermission.

CAST: Andrea Dennison-Laufer as “Lizzie Curry”; Keith Pinto as “Starbuck”; Juan Castro as “Bo Dollivon”;  Jesse Caldwell as “H.C. Curry;  Elliott Hanson as “Jimmy Curry; James Schott as “Noah Curry”; Kyra Lynn Kozlenko as “Snookie Updegraff,; Ensemble;  Jillian Bader, Cameron LaBrie, Anne Norland, Danielle Philapil,  Benjamin Pither,  Danny Quezada, Clio Salzer,  Hope Salzer, Donna Jeanne Turner.

CREATIVE TEAM: Director Josh Marx; Choreographer, Scottie Watson; Music Director, Dave Dobrusky; Scenic Designer, Brian Watson; Lighting Designer, Michael Palumbo; Costume Designer,  Bethany Deal; Stage Manager, Alicia Lerner; Assistant Stage Manager, Lauren Howry; Choreographer, Scottie Watson.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.