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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: The Opera Center is not air-conditioned.