Theatron’s ‘The Robber Bridegroom’ falls flat

Reviewed by George Basler

Theatron Productions began a few years ago with the laudable goal of staging older musicals that are not frequently seen in the Binghamton area.

But, good intentions aside, the company’s production of The Robber Bridegroom, which runs through this weekend at the Tri Cities Opera Center in Binghamton, is long on corn and short on charm.

The musical has an intriguing history. Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) wrote the book and lyrics, and Robert Waldman composed the music, based on a Southern Gothic novella by Eudora Welty. Original productions launched the careers of both Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone who went on to become Broadway stars.

The story is basically a Southern fairy tale filled with blundering robbers, a virginal heroine, a wicked stepmother, a doting father and a swaggering gentleman thief who falls for aforementioned virgin.

The show requires acting that is broad, but not overly broad. That’s a fine line, and the Theatron cast, directed by Mike Meaney, goes over it repeatedly. They mug and overact their roles. Their performances aren’t helped by a poor sound system that leaves the dialogue and songs muffled and muddy, at times, and blaring at others.

Waldman and Uhry’s songs are unmemorable, with the possible exception of Sleepy Man, a nice ballad toward the end of the show. The plot has long stretches of tedium. Antics, which are supposed to be zany fun, fall flat.

Mickey Woyshner brings energy and enthusiasm to the lead role of the swaggering thief, but he falls short in the charisma department.

As the virginal heroine, Tiffany Jhingoor has a nice singing voice and attempts to bring a sweetness and sassiness to her role. She does a fine job with Sleepy Man, but the character remains a bland one.

Shirley Goodman, as the wicked stepmother, goes in the opposite direction. Her performance is so over the top that the humor disappears, and the character becomes just plain annoying.

Other performances are mixed. Dallas Elwood and Matt Samluk have a few funny moments as bumbling brothers who are inept robbers. David Black plays the heroine’s father with a broad Southern accent. The usually first-rate Caitlin McNichol hams in it up way too much in playing a black bird (yes, bird) that shows up periodically to flap its wings and screech.

A four-person hootenanny band, conducted by Sonny Dewitt, the show’s musical director, play spiritedly throughout the show, although the songs bear about as much resemblance to Southern folk tunes as a McDonald’s Big Mac does to a gourmet meal

All in all, at Friday’s performance (July 8), I was ready to leave the Mississippi backwoods long before The Robber Bridegroom ended.

Still, I admire Theatron Productions for taking on the challenge of staging musicals that are off the beaten track. Hopefully, its next production will be more successful.

IF YOU GO: The Robber Bridegroom, which opened July 1, has two final performances: 8 p.m. today (July 9) and 2 p.m. Sunday (July 10) at the Tri Cities Opera Center, 315 Clinton St., Binghamton. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students and seniors); reserve by emailing theatronproductions2015@gmail.com. Note: The Opera Center is not air-conditioned.

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3 Responses to "Theatron’s ‘The Robber Bridegroom’ falls flat"

  1. Octavian1

    This review is honest and accurate in my opinion, although I was less bothered by the staging itself (which was fairly imaginative, given the small theater, stage and wing space) and much of the acting. And given that this was (I believe) a largely amateur production, I was also impressed with the overall level of singing, although there were occasional intonation issues. But the phrase “long on corn and short on charm” is right on point as it describes the actual work itself (HOW did this get two seasons on Broadway?), and that may be why some of the actors tried to wring more out of it than is there.

    As the reviewer stated, the body mics worn by the performers were uneven, and they also picked up a lot of stage noise. I’d also add that the audience (and I asked others, this is not just my opinion) could understand maybe, MAYBE 20% of the lyrics and dialogue at most, even with the mics. Also note that the Tri-Cities Opera Center, where this is being performed, is currently renovating their HVAC system, so there was no air-conditioning. This is a black box theater, and it was not yet dark outside, so all windows were closed and covered. An assortment of floor fans provided little relief, although hand-held fans were also handed out, as was ice water. But it was blisteringly hot for the audience, and I cannot imagine what it was like for the actors with costumes, lights and very active staging.

  2. Lawrence Kasan

    I’m sorry I missed it. I worked on the original production with The Acting Company in the ’70s. I really like the musical.
    Hope they get the AC fixed at the Opera Center… we had a different issue at the Helen Foley Theatre this weekend during SPARE Productions’ CHICAGO. A few said it was too cold in the theater but did not complain too much!

  3. Cole Riccardi

    He spends the show looking for money to steal and women to rape – particularly helpless girls who are tied up – but through this, he becomes intricately involved in the show’s mayhem.

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