THEATER REVIEW: ‘Primrose’ @ Ohio Light Opera by Kelly Ferjutz

Through Fri 8/11

If you’re at all fond of time-travel, you should really enjoy Primrose, now on the boards at Ohio Light Opera in Wooster. It’s a rather strange little creature, being familiar and yet not so much, and at the same time, very modern and somehow anachronistic. It’s not every day you can see an American premiere of a musical written by George Gershwin. You can certainly see shows written by him, but they’ve been around for a while. This one is new to the world. Well, unless, of course, you were in London in 1924 and were able to see it in one of the 255 performances given then.

That’s probably not a viable option, so you really shouldn’t miss this opportunity. It’s definitely Gershwin, tuneful and engaging, but not necessarily the Gershwin with whom we’re most familiar. He knew when he wrote this that it wasn’t the typical American musical theater piece, so he catered to British tastes as well.

There are three love stories happening all at the same time; fortunately, each couple is distinct. First and foremost is the writer Hilary Vane (Nathan Brian), a successful, dashing young man who lives on a houseboat, moored along the upper Thames. Joan (Sarah Best), a local young lady, the ward of his friend and neighbor, Sir Barnaby Falls (Kyle Yampiro), is madly in love with the author and imagines that he is writing about her in his latest book, with the cleverly titled heroine Miss Primrose. In the meantime, Freddie (the son of Sir Barnaby, and brought to life by Benjamin Krumreig), is unhappily engaged to Joan, but is actually in love with buoyant amateur golfer May Rooker, the effervescent Tanya Roberts.

The third couple is the comic relief, played to perfection by Stephen Faulk as the local aristocrat, Toby Mopham, and Alexa Devlin as Pinkie Peach/Madame Frazaline, a beauty specialist who hails from London, rather far afield from the local society.

Kiah Kayser created varied settings ranging from the dock where the houseboat is moored to a seaside resort in France and Mopham House in Park Lane, doing double duty as the Vauxhall Club, thanks to Toby’s Mum, Lady Sophia (Katherine Corle). Lighting is by Daniel Huston and sound by Dominic Mosher.

This is a feel-good type of musical comedy, featuring bright and colorful costumes (and bunches of them, at that) by Kim Griffin. There are tons of laughs and a goodly big of slapstick. (Be sure to pay good attention to the song in the second act, “Mary, Queen of Scots,” sung by Toby and Freddie.) Period dances were brilliantly choreographed by Spencer Reese. Steven Byess conducted the OLO orchestra, and the stage direction was by Julie Wright Costa.

Primrose is a musical in three acts with a book by Guy Bolton and George Grossmith Jr., lyrics by Desmond Carter and Ira Gershwin. The sparkling music is by George Gershwin, and is definitely the youngest 93-year-old music you’ve ever heard. After a couple of hearings, you could even be humming ‘Some Faraway Someone’ or ‘Boy Wanted’.

Primrose runs through Fri 8/11. For ticket information, visit ohiolightopera.org or call 330.263.2345.

[Written by Kelly Ferjutz]

 

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