Reviewed by Lee Shepherd
Tintypes, a nostalgic look back at the best and the worst of the turn of the (last century), is a lightweight but highly energetic and thoroughly entertaining evening of pantomime, song and dance.
Presented by the Cider Mill Playhouse Thursday through Sunday every week in November, Tintypes features a fabulous cast of actor/singer/dancers who are mostly Binghamton University-educated.
Tintypes premiered as an off-Broadway show in 1980. It had to relinquish the name Ragtime when it was scooped by the musical based on the E.L. Doctorow novel. As in Ragtime, historical figures flit in and out of the story, interacting with stereotypical characters – the poor immigrant, the black maid, the robber baron, the wealthy society lady. Although billed as a show about patriotism, it’s more a story about injustice and oppression, although just skimming the surface of those issues.
Tintypes is a bit frenetic (just about every medley flits from one song to another faster than they can be recognized), but the clever choreography and stage business save the day.
Bobby Daglio, a recent BU grad, morphsas Charlie from immigrant lad to sad-sack suitor (think Red Skelton), and his clowning is sweet and lovable. Andrea Grigori, known to local audiences from her many roles with the Summer Savoyards, is a comedic genius, playing a posh and often ridiculous lady to the hilt. Her warbling voice is perfectly suited to the pseudo-Ziegfield Follies and vaudeville stage numbers.
Brad Morgan, the rich and powerful politician, hasn’t the richness of voice of his co-actors, but his acting is fine, and he makes a wonderfully pompous Teddy Roosevelt. Import La’Nette Wallace has a big, booming gospel-style voice that blows you away and tears at your heart when she sings about poverty and racism.
But Jessica Zambrotta, who depicts Emma Goldman and a variety of other characters, steals the show. With a face like rubber, she appears cute as a bug one moment, homely as hell the next, but always adorable. She’s a first-rate mime and comedian, reminiscent of Carol Burnett.
Hats off director/choreographer Michael Susko, a Binghamton native turned New Yorker, for so many ingenious and entertaining bits created for the show. Scene/sound/lighting designer Craig Saeger is also to be congratulated. The set is simple, based on five larger-than-life tintype picture frames, allowing easy and efficient scene changes. From the lavish to the plain, Barbara Erin Delo has created some dandy costumes.
The show could not go on without the yeoman work of musical director/pianist Jan De Angelo and his merry pit band (clarinetist Joanne Peters, flautist Kristen Gilbert and percussionist James Rosati). Although positioned actually under the stage, they never missed a cue and were in almost perfect synch with the singers. The score is obviously hard and very tricky.
With Election Day not far off, I had to laugh at one poignant line: “Only naïve children put their faith in their political leaders.”
For ticket information: visiti: www.cidermillplayhouse.org.