STAR San Diego and the Adult Theatre Performance Class of San Diego Continuing Education certainly did give A Swell Party in the theatre at EEC. The party takes place in tahe ies, a time of despair, and a time, for a few, of frivolity to forget the reality of the Depression.
Carlyn Ames, who has been putting on these senior productions for a number of years, assembled the works of Gershwin, Berlin, and Porter into a series of eleven scenes. Producer/Director Ames opens the show with an excellent montage of thirty’s images from stills of breadlines to movies bits, assembled and produced by her and Bob Gardner Productions. It is a great opening, setting the stage for Carol Wahl’s rendition of “Hostess With the Mostes’ ” followed by the gowned and tuxed cast singing “What a Swell Party.”
Scene 1, After Dinner Entertainment, opens with “S’Wonderful” and closes with Karen Menin’s beautiful styling of “Embraceable You.” Next grouping, Travel Conversation, begins with Lou Mattazaro’s well styled “Foggy Day.” Octogenarian hoofer Jack Sigler closes the scene, backed by songsters Mattazaro, Menin, Marie Boswell, Doug Correira, and Mark Anthony, “Steppin’ Out” in great style.
In & Out of Love themes the next scene starring Neal Sullivan’s “But Not For Me.” This was followed by Class Act with Sallye Graves’s strongly styled “By Strauss.”
Wahl and Faith Lawrence delightfully dressed as a couple of bums, were amusing in “Couple of Swells.”
Act Two, Radio Show, opens with a trio, Wahl, Lawrence, and Ames, on mike singing “This Year’s Kisses.” Menin is absolutely radiant in “Summertime.” Charity Show, the second scene, bursts forth with a totally riotous version of Cole Porter’s “Clowns” by Anthony and Terry John. The act closes when Mattazaro and Graves provide a very lyrical “In The Still of the Night.” The Bar scene includes some really bad jokes by Sigler.
Anthony and John’s comic relief often bridges acts. There is, however, a delightful barmaid/waitress named Bridget (Sheila Jurist), who provides some of the truly charming bits, be it endlessly carrying a tray of drinks passing up all of the guests, being a foil to the comic antics of John and Anthony (Why do both of these guys have to have first names for last names?), and becoming a climatic lush. Thanks for your silent bits, they were a kick.
The wigs and additional costumes add both variety and nice touches to the specialty tunes. In an after-note, this production has been plagued with sick cast members (John in bed all week with a 102 degree fever), tech rehearsals that didn’t happen, last-minute cast changes; well, just the normal things that go on in live theatre.
A Swell Party! brings us 36 classics, when melody and words had meaning, when love was honored and adored, and when sweetness and light masked the reality of the horrors of the Depression. It is great fun for the older crowd and a fabulous history lesson for the younger. As with previous productions, the show is headed to the annual Senior Theatre USA Festival in Baltimore. Previous STAR productions have gone to Las Vegas and St. Louis. Enjoy the show.
Jack Sigler, Sheila Jurist, Carol Wahl, Faith Lawrence, Carlyn Ames, Karen Menin, Neal Sullivan, Doug Correira, Lou Mattazaro, Mark Anthony, Marie Boswell, Terry John
Stage crew: Carol Jacobsen, Gloriaann Putnam, Harriet Filmore, Sandy Marcou, Peggy Daly, Susan Wold, John Deedee; Sets: Terry John, Mark Anthony, Dressers Peggy Daly & Harriet Filmore, Sound/Lights Sam Kulani & Listel Boney, DVD production Gardner Productions & Carlyn Ames, Original piano music Jim Guerin, arrangements Carlyn Ames
Total Rating: Two Stars
Genre: Musical revue
Author: Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, & George Gershwin
Producer/Director: Carlyn Ames
Date Reviewed: February 22, 2008
Dates: Weekend thru March 2, 2008
Running Time: 117 minutes including a 20-minute intermission
STAR San Diego
SD EEC Performing Arts Theatre
4343 Ocean View Blvd, San Diego, CA 92113
Box Office Phone 619 997-0955 & www.starssandiego.net