by Clark Groome
A cabaret musical and the second entry of the Quintessence Theatre Group’s spring repertory productions made up my time at the theater last week. Here’s what I saw:
Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville. Ohio. According to Armen Pandola’s “Dino! An Evening with Dean Martin at the Latin Casino,” Dean was the man the public saw; Dino was the man his friends and family knew.
The show, which runs through June 30 at the Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio on 3, is set at Cherry Hill’s Latin Casino on a snowy evening in 1978. Because of the blizzard, only Martin’s pianist and a few devoted fans make it for his performance. He takes the opportunity to tell his audience about the real Dean Martin. There are plenty of songs. There’s a lot of chatter. There’s an insufferable number of booze and ethnic jokes.
In theory, “Dino!” is a good idea. In practice it doesn’t quite make it, primarily because Nat Chandler’s performance is more Bert Parks than Dean Martin. It’s never clear whether he’s trying to mimic Martin or just sing songs associated with him. The result is a vocal performance that’s all over the map. There’s also the sense that Chandler is the person most impressed with his performance. It’s too ego-driven for my taste. And while Martin was a great pop singer, Chandler is barely a good one.
The songs are familiar and range from Martin anthems like “Everyone Loves Somebody” and “That’s Amore” to Al Jolson’s “Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye” and, believe it or not, Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.”
His biographical and introspective revelations — from his early days in Ohio through the Martin and Lewis years, the Rat Pack, the TV show and his many marriages — are interspersed between, and sometimes in the middle of, the songs. Musical director and pianist David Jenkins was superb.
Director Fran Prisco has turned the small theater into a nightclub that’s nicely designed by Glen Sears and lit by Amanda Kircher. The audience is seated at tables where they can bring drinks bought in the lobby.
“Dino!” is pleasant, but I left the theater thinking that Dean and his audiences deserved better.
For tickets call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787 or visit walnutstreettheatre.org
Martin Crimp’s stunningly effective adaptation of Molière’s “The Misanthrope” moves the play from 17th century France to modern-day London.
The play focuses on playwright Alceste’s inability to be anything but totally honest. His candor gets him in trouble with friends and, most significantly, with his girlfriend, in this version an American actress named Jennifer.
Crimp’s “Misanthrope” is, like the original, in rhymed couplets. While the language is clearly contemporary, the piece has the feel of a 17th century comedy, particularly in the costume party that ends the 100-minute one act. All the characters except Alcesete are dressed in 17th century garb. That makes the story seem timeless, which it clearly is.
“The Misanthrope” is the second part of the Qunitessence Theatre Group’s “Chocolate and Champagne Repertory.” Teamed with George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man,” the two plays run through May 26 at the Sedgwick Theatre, 7137 Germantown Ave.
Alexander Burns has directed Quintessence’s “Misanthrope” with an appropriate energy that makes the situation and the characters entertaining and enlightening. The production establishes the various relationships and characters impressively.
While it turns out that Alceste loses his love, it’s also apparent that he’s better off without her or any of her unimaginably shallow friends.
While the entire Quintessence cast does well, John Williams, Daniel Frederick’s, Mattie Hawkinson, Christopher Burke and Ames Adamson stood out.
“The Misanthrope” is equal parts comedy and social criticism. In Burns’ strong Quintessence production, both elements are clearly visible in just the right proportions.
For tickets and performance schedules, call 1-877-238-5596 or visit quintessencetheatre.org