A Stage Review “Meet Me In St. Louis”

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By Dee Jae Cox

In Theater a ‘classic’ tends to be defined as a show that is timeless.  It can be performed at any date and still be enjoyed by most audiences.  There is much to be learned about the art of theater by watching performances that are not limited to any particular era or audience, but can be appreciated by any age at any point in time, regardless of the date for the show’s plot.

The Palm Canyon Theatre once more upholds their reputation for bringing quality performances to the stage with their latest production of “Meet Me in St. Louis.”  Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane wrote the music and lyrics for the Tony nominated stage version of this musical in 1989 with book by Hugh Wheeler.  It was based on the 1944 film, featuring the immortal Judy Garland, which was originally based on the book, ”The Kensington Stories” and later published as “Meet Me in St Louis,” by Sally Benson.   

“Meet Me in St. Louis,” is the story of a family living in St. Louis, Missouri on the eve of the 1904 World’s Fair.  It’s a familiar plot about love and family and realizing that there’s no place like home.  Despite the simple and easy going storyline, it is engaging and most certainly one of the best ‘feel good’ shows that I’ve seen.  It’s a perfect Holiday outing.

Sadie Paiz, as Tootie Smith, hooks the audience at the rise of the curtain.  Adorable and precocious, she is the perfect introduction for a show that will keep you smiling from the beginning until the end.  Elizabeth Schmelling as Esther Smith is a show stopper.  She shines in the role of a young woman finding her first love.   She is a stage natural and her performance of the song “Under the bamboo tree” was my favorite.  Kate Antonov, is obviously an experienced dancer, as demonstrated by her grace and professional dance techniques, she brought an elegance to the role of Rose Smith. Grandpa Prophater, (Douglas Paul) was a highlight any time he entered the stage.  Steven David Lee as Warren Sheffield, was wonderful in his role as Rose’s tireless suitor, and Katie’s (Karen Schmitt) rendering of, “A touch of the Irish” is definitely noteworthy.

This show has one of the best ensemble casts that you will find in any production.  I was mesmerized by Andrea Bellato’s choreography. The dancing flowed like sweet honey across the stage.  J.W. Layne’s set design beautifully captured an elegant, turn of the century house.  And the live music trio with Steven Smith on piano, Larry Holloway on Bass and David Bronson on Drums brought the familiar and beloved songs for this show to their full potential. 

I dare you to leave the theater without humming the tune for “Meet Me in St. Louis,” or “The Trolley Song.”  And only the Grinch’s heart wouldn’t melt upon hearing this cast sing, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” in the finale.  Derik Shopinski once more brings his special art of design to the stage with a full wardrobe of beautifully crafted, era perfect costumes.  And fitting all of the pieces together, William Layne’s direction makes this large cast production, cohesive and synchronized.  Each step has intent and further defines the space and story.

Meet Me in St. Louis is a feel good classic musical and this production will keep a smile lingering long after the show ends.  It is targeted for any age and is currently in production through December 18th, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.

For Reservations: Box Office: 760.323.5123  – www.palmcanyontheatre.org

Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer.  She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. www.californiawoman411.com and www.lawomenstheatreproject.org.  

Correction:

 The review for “Santaland Diaries,” produced by The Desert Rose Playhouse and published the week of November 21st, incorrectly made reference to the actor using the phrase, “Retards.” His actual reference was to “Retarded People.”  My apologies for the script misquote.