Meet Me in St. Louis/songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane; book by Hugh Wheeler/directed by Linda Kerns/Cabrillo Music Theatre/through July 29
The classic 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis directed by Vincente Minnelli is so revered that to imagine a stage version of equal prominence is... well, Cabrillo's impressive reproduction of the 1989 Broadway version is so charmingly rendered, that one puts the movie, Judy Garland and company on a back burner... at least for 2 hours. Not unlike White Christmas on stage, Meet Me in St. Louis captivates its audience with all those delectable old tunes, top-of-the-line production values and a wonderful ensemble. Also, as a special treat on opening night, the film's original Tootie, Oscar winner Margaret O'Brien was on hand to greet her fans in the lobby.
It's always refreshing when not one actor in the show is miscast; even the youngest children are real pros. With director Linda Kern's consistently even staging, everyone contributes beautifully to the big picture of the family unit that somehow remained more cohesive in 1903/04 than it does today. Heading the clan are steadfast Tom Schmid and Christina Saffran Ashford as father and mother Alonso and Anna Smith. Alyssa M. Simmons - what a lovely singing voice - is Esther. An all-round pure delight! Dynell Leigh is preciously caustic as Katie. John McCool Bowers is the perfect gentleman as Grandpa Prophater. Hayley Shuklar makes an adorably precocious Tootie, although she does need to speak more slowly and crisply. Rounding out the terrific mix are Brendan Yeates as brother Lon, Melissa Reinertson as Rose, and Kyle Lowder a divine John Truitt - another outstanding singer and creating quite the all American boy presence!
I assume with no credit listed that the set is the purchased touring set, but it's great to look at - the house - that revolves to show both exterior and interiors, the trolley, and the great hall gaily decorated for the Christmas ball. Choreographer Heather Castillo makes great contributions, as does musical director Lloyd Cooper. Particularly fancy are Castillo's quick-paced moves for "The Banjo".
I love edgy mateial, which Meet in St. Louis is most assuredly not. But I am also a sucker for nostalgia, especially when it's well done, and "Zing Go the Strings" in this very enjoyable production, through next Sunday, July 29 only.
For more information, visit www.cabrillomusictheatre.com.