Now playing at the New Place Theatre in NoHo is Andak Stage Company’s Liberty Inn: The Musical, an original musical comedy that has been adapted by Dakin Matthews (book and lyrics) and B. T. Ryback (music) from Goldoni”™s comic masterpiece La locandiera (The Landlady).
A musical battle of the sexes, featuring twenty-two original songs, the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni”™s story has been deftly relocated to post-colonial America, namely 1787 New York.Â Here a liberated lady innkeeper fends off unwanted suitors and strives to maintain her liberty.Â Her opponents include a wealthy English Count, an impoverished French Marquis and a misogynistic Hessian Captain. When our heroine encounters a fellow – the Hessian/German Captain – who seems impervious to her charms, the wily landlady becomes determined to tame him.
The lively show, directed by Anne McNaughton, stars Broadway veterans Deborah May and Norman Snow, along with Bill Mendieta, John Combs, Mark Doerr, John DeMita and Charlotte DiGregorio.
Carlo Goldoni (1707 – 1793) was a celebrated Venetian playwright and librettist, whom critics today rank among the European theatre’s greatest authors. His works, along with those of the modernist Luigi Pirandello, include some of Italy’s most famous and best-loved plays. Audiences have admired the plays of Goldoni for their ingenious mix of wit and honesty. His plays offered his contemporaries images of themselves, often dramatizing the lives, values, and conflicts of the emerging middle classes.
When Goldoni began writing, around 1733, Italian comedy revolved around the conventionality of the Commedia dell’arte, or improvised comedy. Using the canon of Moliere as his gold standard, Goldoni took to himself the task of superseding the comedy of masks and the comedy of intrigue by representations of actual life and manners. He rightly maintained that Italian life and manners were susceptible of artistic treatment such as had not been given them before.
Dakin”™s play is tremendous fun. The chic set is designed by Dean Cameron, who also designed the period costumes. Depicting a well-appointed living room with a cozy fireplace and matching antique furniture, the set serves well for all the scenes staged in the private rooms as well as the public lounge room of Liberty Inn, with just a bit of rearrangement of the furniture as needed.
There are two accompanists for the show, playing the piano throughout, and if you are lucky you might get the composer himself – B. T. Ryback – tinkling the keys live during your performance. Â The songs do have a certain sameness to their musical palette, yet this aspect is elevated by the cute puns and clever rhymes within the lyrics as well as the lovely harmonies provided by the warm tones of the singers, especially Bill Mendieta as Faber.
A highlight is Mirandolina”™s (Deborah May) delightful song “A Lady in Love” where she declares; “Men who adore me eventually bore me”¦ I”™m free! I”™m a lady in love with her liberty!”Â Eventually this musical starts to take shape as a (loose) reverse take on Shakespeare”™s classic “The Taming of the Shrew” as Mirandolina makes it her mission to win over the misogynistic German Captain.
Another stand out performance is John DeMita as the Marquis, spouting an outrageous and hilariously thick French accent (think John Cleese in Holy Grail) – actually everyone does a fine job with the necessary regional accents, including Sofia (Charlotte DiGregorio) as the faux Italian “˜Contessa”™.
The Contessa and Mirandolina also share an exquisite duet – “Make Men Pay” – that boasts the operatic vocal flounces of a true soprano.
The entire show clips along at a lively, rapid pace – Liberty Inn is a charming musical with a comfortingly classical feel.
LIBERTY INN: THE MUSICAL runs through Sunday April 25, 2010.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm
Andak Stage Company at the New Place Studio Theatre
10950 Peach Grove Street, North Hollywood, CA 91601.
All tickets are $25, with discounts for previews, seniors, students, industry professionals, and groups. For tickets call (866) 811-4111 or visit them online.
Review by Pauline Adamek