Solana Beach, CA---Don’t be surprised if you run into a snoozing (or passed out) man, the Innkeeper, (Ron Choularton) propped up just outside the tavern as you enter the theatre in Solana Beach. He’s the proprietor of the English Tavern, “The Wayside Inn”, an off the beaten path drop off place that hasn’t seen much action recently.
The Innkeeper’s Wife (Annie Hinton) is in a flurry because she noticed a broken down coach with injured horses not far from their wayside inn. She instinctively knew that that meant business for them. She also knew that it was not just any old business, but high-class business.
“Man With a Load of Mischief” was an off-Broadway success in 1966/67 and in London’s West End in 1968/69. It was revived three times in New York. This little chamber piece is based on the book by Ben Tarver and adapted from the 1925 Broadway play by Ashley Dukes.
Lyrics and music are by John Clifton. Ben Tarver and Clifton wrote the lyrics. Little known and less than seldom produced, it ran for 261 performances. This ‘jewel box’ musical is a favorite of director Rick Simas, ergo he’s channeling the show that will continue its run at North Coast through Sept. 29th.
Set at about 1810 (Renetta Lloyd designed perfect period pieces), we are introduced to the players in this little comedy of manners almost two by two.
The Lord and Lady (Randall Dodge and Jacquelyn Ritz) and The Man and The Maid (Robert Yacko and Tatiana Mac) pile into the main setting of the inn loaded down with luggage and attitude. We later learn that attitude goes a long way with this group since all is not what it appears to be.
Looks are deceiving and words cut both ways as Clifton’s musical score/lyrics brings it home with combinations of duets, trios and quintets as the cast sings, oft times with stinging emotions, other times with love and care “Friends Like You”, “You’d Be Amazed”, “Man With a Load of Mischief”, “Goodbye My Sweet”, “Hullaballo-Balay”, “Lover Lost”, “Forget” along with stunning ballads like “Make Way For My Lady”, and “Come To The Masquerade” beautifully sung and nuanced by Yacko. (Ron Councell is musical director)
Most entertaining are Ron Choularton and Annie Hinton as they banter like the old married couple they are with tunes like “Once You’ve Had a Little Taste”, “What Style” and “Any Other Way”. Both offer comic relief par excellence as the innkeeper and his wife who fall into step with the goings on between The Lord, The Lady, The Man and The Maid. They both light up the stage each time they appear.
The plot line is a somewhat convoluted and disquieting story dealing with romance and deception as twists and turns are as predictable as night follows day or day follows night. (I hate to put a damper on the fun but it’s not a very complimentary toward women even though they are part of the bigger joke.)
The Lord is a gambler who owes money to an anonymous Prince. The Lady is fleeing the Prince but is the current squeeze of the Lord who has eyes for the Maid. The Lady’s past will be made known to you as the story line moves from the Lord and Lady to the Man and Lady and the Maid and The Lord. Suffice it to say, the Lady does not want to go back to the Prince, but is sure the pompous Lord will send her back to him as payoff for his debts. (Get the gist?)
The Man (servant) knows the Lady from past encounters but doesn’t hold back when his Lord plots to humble her while he (The Lord) propositions the Maid who offers no resistance. The plot gets complicated in a macho way that doesn’t bode well for the men of that century. But as they say, what happens in the Inn stays in the Inn. As mentioned, it’s complex but it won’t take a Colombo to figure out. I’ll save the ending for you to draw your own conclusions.
Simas has gathered a most talented and versatile cast to pull off this chamber period piece. I can’t say that will be on my list of favorites but I will say that the talent runs deep starting with Randall Dodge whose strong presence and always beautiful baritone voice impresses as does Yacko, who plays both side of the romantic angle.
All three women are on pretty solid ground; spirited and sing with passion and conviction and who are able to hold their own around the entire male wrangling and goings on. Some might find it amusing others might find it appealing, witty, sophisticated and charming. Yours truly is not so inclined. You be the judge.
Credit Marty Burnett once again for designing an authentic looking Inn, surrounding garden and various doors leading upstairs and outside. Angela Ynfante dressed the set with authenticity.
Jill Gorrie choreographed the little dance numbers, both waltzes and minuets, which give the piece an elegant look even though we are, after all, in a Wayside Inn. Steven Withers’ musicians put the finishing touches on a fluffy valentine that most in the audience appeared to enjoy.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Sept. 29th
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Production Type: Musical Comedy
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach, CA
Ticket Prices: $40.00-$57.00