Nancy Sasso Janis
Woodbury, CT - Community Theatre at Woodbury has produced the musical melodrama entitled ‘Tied to the Tracks’ which runs through May 21 in the Woodbury Historic Town Hall. The musical features a book by Tim Kelly, music by Arne Christiansen and lyrics by Ole H. Kittelson and the CTAW production was produced and directed by Don Fiftal and Lois Fiftal with music direction by Lois Fiftal. The couple recounts in their director’s notes that the musical was chosen to revive the melodrama form, as well as to honor the Woodbury Players (now CTAW) who 66 years ago presented a 19th century melodrama called ‘Gold in the Hills’ that featured the talents of iconic Woodbury resident Adele Taylor and her husband.
The producers/directors describe work as a vaudeville-style piece that takes place in the Melody Hotel in the Dakota Territory of the 1880’s. “‘TTT, as we call it, is being produced for the sheer fun and enjoyment of our players and of our audience. TTT contains the classic melodrama ingredients--an unscrupulous Villain; a sweet and lovely Heroine; a boastfully handsome Hero; a bad-girl Bandit Queen; a Fake Pirate; men and women Farmers; rowdy Outlaws; well-bred Gentlewomen; Harvey-Girl Waitresses; a Pinkerton Detective; wholesome Teen Girls; and an odd-ball Medicine Troupe!!”
The musical elements included a rousing “You’re in Dakota,” the love song “Made for Each Other,” the comic homage to that dastardly villain “He’s a Meanie, He’s a Nasty, He’s a Grouch” and a song written by Ms. Fiftal entitled “We Need a Hero.” The classic scene of the hero saving the damsel in distress which the villain has, say it with me, Tied to the Tracks was well-staged, complete with strobe lighting and an oncoming train.
The audience was encouraged to be part of the rolicking action and on opening night they delighted in booing and hissing at the Villain (played with delight by Steve Sorriero) and cheering for the Hero in the white cowboy hat. The players made liberal use of the aisle and the area in front of the stage, so it was all very up close and personal. The small group of musicians sat behind screens stage right and did well. Parts of the first act of this light fare sounded improvised and it was fun to see the actors awaiting their next entrance up in the balcony.
Most of the cast were marked as making their first appearance at CTAW and if performances were a little uneven, they all seemed to be having a great time onstage. At times, the sound in this relatively intimate space was a bit uneven as well. Friends and family members came out in droves to support the cast loudly.
Bibiana Andreu played Sarah and Linda Leigh was Tillie, both farm gals. Jan Maki was Mrs. Riggs and Kathy Pazman was Mrs. Bradman, an east coast socialite. John Giustra, Cole Cutrofello in his stage debut, and Terry Johanesen appeared as farmers/outlaws. Dakota girls included Natalie LaBonia, Isabella LaBonia, Allison Roche, Nonnewaug senior Anna Bunovsky and Margaret Price. The Harvey Girls, those restaurant chain waitresses, were played by Dahlia Greenberg, Nicole Thomas (‘A Christmas Carol at Earlene’s Diner at 7A) and Malia Piscitelli.
Sarah Miller was strong as the villain’s forgery expert Cassie and played flute onstage on one number. Danielle Shaker played Theodora Barracuda, a Shakespearean drama diva. Jack Kearney rounded out very well the Medicine show cast as Dudley Cannonball, a phony pirate sidekick. Greg Cava did very well with the role of Rufus Clang, the Pinkerton detective. Lisa Goldberg (‘Shivering Santa,’ ‘Spitfire Grill,’ ‘Almost, Maine’) played the role of female outlaw Wild Prairie Rose to the hilt.
Greg Weaver, a member of the Valley Chordsmen, wore the white hat well as Sheriff Billy Bold, adored by every teenaged girl and loved by the beautiful Dakota Melody. The heroine was brought to life sweetly by Elizabeth Gower (‘Spitfire Grill.’) And Mr. Sorriero was a hoot in the role of the villain named Silas Scavenger; his natural facial hair was an authentic touch.
Ms. Fiftal is the author of ‘Shivering Santa,’ which was one of CTAW’s earliest productions. Elizabeth Fisk served as choreographer and Harriet Grannick did well with period costumes, props and dressing the set which was lit well.
‘Tied to the Tracks’ continues through May 21 and please note the 7:30pm curtain at evening performances.
Photos by Dan Denver
Nancy Sasso Janis is a member of Connecticut Critics Circle and continues to contribute theatre news to local Patch.com sites. Check out her new Facebook page Nancy Sasso Janis: Theatre Reviewer and follow her on Twitter @nancysjanis714