Connecticut ~ Review: 'Aches and Pains' at Seven Angels

by Nancy Sasso Janis, OnStage Critic Seven Angels Theatre proudly brought back the original musical 'Aches and Pains' with a book and lyrics by the late Dan Calabrese and music by Richard DeRosa. This Stage II Production was first seen back in 1997 and some of the original cast members were back with some new members. Director Tom Chute, who gleefully reprised his role of centenarian Elmo Cahill, told the closing matinee audience that some of these younger cast members already have their eye on the senior role that they would like to play if the show comes back in another 20 years.

Winter weather forced me to write a review of a closing performance for the first time, but I did not want to miss this cast in action. Choreographer Ralph Cantito came over to say hello after I found my seat in the packed house. Mr. Chute noted how supportive the great crowd had been during his curtain call thank you speech.

The original piece takes place in a fun(ny) assisted living facility in the eighties. The residents and the staff members "examine the pros and cons, the highs and lows, and the aches and pains of life in the 'sunset years.'" There is definitely comedy and "heart-warming geriatric vaudeville" in the show and the terrific cast are spot on.

Mr. DeRosa played his original melodies on piano in the pit with original musicians Jane Bate (synthesizer) and Mark Ryan (percussion.) The songs were a mix of solos and duets for almost all of the cast members and great ensemble numbers with precise harmonies. I liked the opening number "Sign of the Times," the first act closing number called "Things Were Better Back Then," and the very cute "Bubble and Bingo." Many numbers featured the fun dance moves of Mr. Cantito, an elementary teacher in Waterbury by day who also serves as the Seven Angels caterer.

Mr. Chute sported crazy hair in his effort to appear to be turning 100 years old, but his velvety smooth singing voice managed to shine through all his vocals. Michael Santoro reprised the role of Sigmund "Ziggy" Itzak Weinbaum, a Jewish widower, and was a convincing actor and wonderful singer. Young Michaelangelo Mancini (Gary) was another great singer; his duet with his love interest played by the lovely Leah Ciccone (Miranda) was very well done. Peter Bard, in his Seven Angels debut, played another caregiver at Marydale Gardens. Meric Martin (Rooster in 'Annie' back in 2011) played the son of Angela (Joyce Jeffrey) and his beautiful solo "Mama" was a crowd pleaser.

Among the ladies at the home was Joanne Chenkus as Emyline. The multi-talented Ms. Jeffrey returned to the stage to play the cranky Italian mother who sings "That's Just the Way I Am." Priscilla Squiers (a 'Ragtime' alum) was the larger than life aging actress Mavis who wants Emyline to ghost write her memoirs. Stephanie Varanelli Miles returned to stage to play caregiver Nori ("A Different Kind of Love,") who should probably take better care of herself. Brookfield's Rebecca Pokorski made her 7A debut as the head nurse Maxine and her fine performance reminded me of the wonderfully talented Michele Gotay.

Ms. Gotay herself had a hilarious cameo in the second act as a Gaudiosi sister who comes to visit Angela. Her sister Phyll was played by James Donohue and the two of them had me laughing throughout their " Gaudiosi Hym of Joy." These two almost stole the show.

The new set of Marydale Gardens was designed by Daniel Husvar and was lit nicely by Dylan Dineen. Mr. Donohue designed the perfect costumes with an eighties flair. It was easy to recognize the voices of Ms. Gotay, WATR's Frank Marro and WATR's Barbara Davitt in the voice over announcements that added a lot between scenes.

Kudos to this excellent cast and the authors of this fun musical.

Other events coming up in January at Seven Angels:

Unplugged Country Country music returns on Friday, January 30 at 8 PM. Starring national recording artists Russ Seeger and Andy Fortier

Bada Bing Comedy Night Saturday, January 31 at 8 PM 4 NYC comedians take the Seven Angels Stage for a great night of comedy. With: Rich Franchese, Fran Capo, Bob Luparello and Rob Falcone

Photos by Gary Rosengrant