Thursday November 23rd 2017

“The Baker’s Wife”

Somewhat recommended** Circle Theatre, now in its 27th season does some quality work but often the choices they make are larger than the stage and talent of their troupe. I give them credit for being fearless in selecting a production like “The Baker’s Wife”, a large cast show on their very small stage. This is a not often done musical by the creator of “Wicked” Stephen Schwartz, who did the music and the lyrics, with a book by Joseph Stein. It is billed as a “romantic musical” and director Kevin Bellie tries to draw out the beauty of a story that appears to be more about learning who you are and how one little change in a community brings about major changes. The story takes place in a small ( very small) French town. Everyone knows everyone and their business and they are not afraid to speak out about what they know. They have been without a baker for awhile and with no fresh bread, they are very “down”. They are expecting the new baker any moment and their bellies are full of anticipation of the the great taste they will once again experience. The set by Bob Knuth is very cleverly done allowing the street scene to be converted by wall moving which keeps the action and focus on the story. The baker, Amiable Castagnet ( a wonderful portrayal by Chuck Sisson, who has a marvelous voice) and his much younger wife , Genevieve( a sparkling performance by Khaki Pixley, who does a brilliant job with one of the show’s most memorable songs “Meadowlark”) arrive and the town is pleased as punch. The fact that his wife is much younger does cause some concern for the gossipy townsfolk, who fear that this is not a match made in heaven.

As the story goes on, we find that a young man, Dominique( deftly handled byDavid Sajewich) falls in love with Genevieve and sweeps her off her feet. For weeks she avoids him but after his “Serenade” feels that she needs to be in love as well as be loved and so she leaves. The baker pretends that she has left to visit her mother, while the townspeople gossip even more. From the time of her departure, no more bread is made as the baker just lies about and so the town is backk to where they were. The Marquis/Mayor (Kirk Swenk) cnvinces the others that they must bring her back so life can go on and so they begin to search. He teams up people who have personal fights to bear and through this search to do what is best for the town and to give the baker back his life, these men become friends ( who says that no good can come from evil?)

There are some fine performances from this large cast, perhaps a bit to large for the stage. Bellie, who does some great choreography and movement, again , was limited by the overpowering set (needed to cast the spell of the story) on this very small stage. I was very impressed by Brian Elliott as the Teacher,Anita Hoffman as Denise ( a powerful voice),Noah Sullivan as her husband Claude and the very funny Steve Greist as Antoine, the town idiot. Melody Latham did a nice job as Therese and if Nicholas Reinhart can lower his speaking voice an octave, his Priest will seem older and wiser, instead of seeming as if he were one of the neighborhood teenagers ( he looks that young).

The musicians make a great sound and it looks as if Bellie has found a way to muffle the orchestra so we can hear the actors onstage-Congrats! As they continue to work in their new space, Circle will continue to fine themselves as they did when they were down the street in Forest Park. There , on an even smaller stage, they found ways to do big musicals. I am sure, they will continue to find their way here in Oak Park as well. They have the tools, they have the desire, they have some very talented people including the costumer(Amy Hilber) the lighting people(Gary C.Echelmeyer) and musical director Gary Powell. Under Bellie’s leadership, they will find plays more fitting to their space or find ways to make the space work. Their line-up for the rest of the year looks very promising- check out www.circle-theatre.org.

“Baker’s” will continue through January 22nd with the exception of the holiday week, December 23rd thru January 1st, with performances as follows:

Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.  ( running time with intermission 2 hours 23 minutes)

Tickets range from $24-$28 , a bargain for a production like this and there is plenty of parking in the area. The theater is located at 1010 Madison Street ( just a few blocks East of Harlem) and a block west of the famous Robinson’s Ribs. To reserve your seats call  708-660-9540 or visit www.circle-theatre.org 

 

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