Nancy Sasso Janis
OnStage Connecticut Critic
WATERBURY, CT - The students of the Waterbury Arts Magnet School (WAMS) will present ‘Grand Hotel: The Musical’ this weekend at an exceedingly grand venue. The magnificent Palace Theater in Waterbury, which happens to be connected to their middle/high school campus, is their proscenium stage for this big show featuring some of the most talented students that come from the city and neighboring districts to attend WAMS.
‘Grand Hotel’ by bookwriter Luther Davis was inspired by Vicki Baum’s period novel of the same name. He collaborated with the composer-lyricist team of Robert Wright and George Forrest to create a musical about the world’s most luxurious and mysterious hotel; Maury Yeston provided additional music and lyrics.
It is 1928, the world is between wars, the stock market is booming and Berlin is the center of the high life. Much is going on with some of the Grand Hotel’s notable guests. The issues of life and death, financial ruin, love and murders, not to mention a bit of comedy and lots of glitz, all converge as humanity comes and goes through the lobby of this lavish hotel.
The WAMS production is directed by Nina A. Smith and John Mobilio serves as musical director. Principal Lauren F. Elias is the producer of the show.
Alyana Gonzalez plays Colonel-Doctor Ottenschlag. She narrates the action and commands the stage as she does so. Senior Nolan Cummings has an amazing singing voice and he uses it perfectly to play a baron who is not as well off as he appears. Senior Liam Alldredge gives another strong performance as Preysing, a man with some financial issues as well. Senior Christian “CJ” Janis has the role of Otto, a Jewish gentleman who wants to live out his remaining days in this grand location and I was undeniably impressed with my son’s performance.
Brianna Crespo is perfectly cast as Miss Flaemmchen, a typist with big aspirations. Noemi Meca is graceful, convincing and accent-perfect as an aging ballerina named Elizaveta Grusenskia. Adrianna Taplin plays the ballet dancer’s adoring fan Raffaela and Vincent Dadamo plays a father-to-be front desk worker Erik.
Senior Gillian Greene does well as General Manager Rohna, Brandon Szep plays Victor Witt and Julia Rocchio is Sandor. Michael Ramlha gives a strong performance as Zinnowitz. The jazz singers called Jimmies are Elisha Tyson, Daniel Anderson, and the lovely Dania Frederick. Oliver Reinoso is a demanding chauffeur, Andre Goire stands guard at the lobby’s revolving door and Julia Maisono keeps the facilities clean as Madame PeePee.
The stylish dancing maids are Sydney Yargeau, Shelby Griffin, Emma Lewis and LisMarie Pabon. The well-dressed three hotel telephone operators are played by Gianna Viele, Sage DelNegro and Crystal Ortiz and all of these young ladies appeared in many other beautifully choreographed dance numbers.
Ensemble members that looked fantastic in their period costumes and added authenticity to the busyness of the lobby included Hannah Flinter, Richard Rosa, Justin Ramos, Eric Caufield, Brianna Denski, Tyler Nizzardo, Victoria Bierce, Emily Pelz, Edis Arslan, Kyla Coughlin, Kendelle Pitts. Finely costumed lobby performers that also sat in the first boxes are Amber Clavette, Cruz Pachenco, Deja Morrison, Lilliana Lopez and Sofia Dadamo.
Because I was invited (truth be told, I invited myself) to attend final dress rehearsal for my review, I had to work without a program. I know that the grand lobby set was most likely built by WAMS students. It featured a grand background, two chandeliers and red velvet/gilded chairs. The costumes were appropriately lavish, with furs, tuxes and spectacular floor-length gowns. Don’t miss the black vintage number with white chiffon sweeping down the back, probably my favorite. The lighting done by WAMS students was gorgeous, the sound will work perfectly and the orchestra under Mr. Mobilio’s direction played the magnificent score so very well. The challenging choreography was nicely executed by dancers and new dancers as well; my favorite was the second tap number.
This is a production of a big show that lives up the standards of WAMS main stage shows. I always try to thank the adults that work with young performers to make school musicals happen, but the amount of time that was put into getting this show onto the Palace Stage gave me a new appreciation for just how dedicated these teachers are. The clear direction of Ms. Smith and all the other faculty members involved with ‘Grand Hotel’ did an amazing job of getting every one of their students to give their best performance.