After making something of a departure over the summer with a production of The Drowsy Chaperone and some evenings of Drag Queen Bingo, the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre returns to more traditional fare with the current show, The Merry Widow.
It’s certainly a durable piece (despite its fluffy, nonsensical plot—or maybe because of it), having had productions continuously somewhere in the world ever since it bowed back in 1905. Much of that success, of course, is due to the Franz Lehar score, which includes such songs as the still lovely Vilia, the spirited Oh, the Women and the fun Maxim’s.
In the Golden Apple presentation (adapted by director Robert Ennis Turoff and staged before by the Apple), the operetta is pared down to its very simple essence—streamlined both in terms of time and production values. It’s costumed, and there is a minimal set consisting of a path or two and a pavilion, but it’s best to think of this Merry Widow as something of a concert version, accompanied only by piano and featuring just eight actors.
I won’t say much about the plot because there isn’t much to say, really: Wealthy widow Tanya (Corinne Bach) is being courted for her money by two perceived fortune hunters (playboy Raymond, played by Berry Ayers, and gossip columnist Charles, played by Cliff Roles), but the love of her life is the one man who won’t propose, fellow playboy Prince Danilo (Dan Hoffman). Throw in a duplicitous wife (Heidi Davis), the duped husband (BJ Wilkes), his factotum (Erik Emerson) and the columnist’s female counterpart (Cara Herman) and you’ve got enough to fill two acts of romantic roundelays.
The more amusing moments of the show actually come between Wilkes and Emerson; Wilkes is entertaining when either irate or enthusiastic (although his sporting of an accent when none of his countrymen have one is odd, it kind of works), and Emerson is always fun to watch scurrying around trying to solve problems. The romantic scenes are less convincing, unless you have a fondness for admittedly old-fashioned and sometimes stiff love duets.
Dan Hoffman and Corinne Bach in the Golden Apple's Merry Widow.
Bach has a nice soprano voice and some sophisticated style as Tanya, although she and Hoffman don’t generate much chemistry together (perhaps more will spark during the run). But I do wonder who the target audience is here; Merry Widow lovers may miss the original’s bigger scale and orchestra, while those new to the piece will probably not be converted by seeing this less spectacular version.
The Merry Widow continues through Oct. 31; call 366-5454 or go to thegoldenapple.com