Painting the Clouds with Sunshine enjoyed its’ world premiere by 42nd Street Moon, a first-ever in-house creation by the little troupe known for reviving quirky and lesser known Broadway musicals from history and putting the budget into spectacular singers with charisma and personality. This organic delight however comes with a contemporary and satisfying, non-traditional ending.
Although the characters remain in the moment and don’t deliver much backstory—it’s a song and dance—the writing differs from the relentlessly cheerful escapes from the Depression. It’s satisfying in that the ending comes on a high note. There’s a sense of reconciliation and closure where characters find themselves and remain on their chosen paths without compromising principles.
Actually if they did compromise that was skipped over for the sake of cheerfulness and hope for the future. After all, we are painting the clouds with sunshine. Allison Rich provides some comic relief with her honesty in “Sing You Sinners”. Generally the production seems more cheerful and escapist than funny but it remains consistently high energy and bright, moving along it’s merry way with the occasional nod to what it’s running away from.
The riches of Allison
All these qualities and then some were gleaming from the show stealer last night, statuesque dancer Allison Rich as Iris Langston, who opened the Depression era love story with a show within a show. Tall and elegant Rich makes an entrance front and center and solo. She’s joined humbly by curly haired Ryan Drummond as her hubby trying to look the part in his spiffy yachtsman’s outfit. It’s a shipboard production during a sail to Honolulu where an enthusiastic wife tries to inspire her seasick husband with an invigorating hula where she tries to get him to join in and sing along. Felicia Lilienthal designed the many costumes and flattering retro gowns.
The many faces of Ryan Drummond
Drummond reinvents himself repeatedly in the production as Hollywood actor Russell and as the cook at the diner. The diner becomes the stage for one of the most charming ensemble numbers, a reprise of “You Oughta Be in Pictures” where Rocco emerges from behind the kitchen doors to sing harmony.
Drummond's mom flew in from Michigan for the occasion. That's her in the slideshow.
Meanwhile Rich kept her over-the-top numbers running throughout the show, appearing in costume after costume, slinky gown after slinky gown. Her antics and mugging particularly with her Lucille Ballian wide eyes contrasted with comedic perfection against her elegant and toned dancer’s figure and neatly pinned hair, her own. Staci Arriaga choreographed.
Rich and Arriaga captivated especially with the director Mark Kauffman’s favorite, his must-have song “Marijuana”. It’s the campy Hollywood party number opening the second act where Rich’s character appears in the most spectacular red satin and opera gloves. The sudden change in tone to a torch song and a dark bordello tango from a local Hollywood diner lit brightly with commaraderie and retro red may have seemed jolting.
Danny Maher did a fine job creating the shadowy dramatic number with backlighting while highlighting the singer’s cheekbones to campy effect as the “Marihuana” singer channeled Marlene Dietrich. Maher comes from Martinez, California and will be getting his degree in audio design.
Disney singer Kari Yancy returns after “I Married an Angel”
However. The story involves the classic innocent girl from Iowa with loads of singing talent suddenly being discovered in the Hollywood diner. That’s Disney singer Kari Yancy as young and virginal Alice Collins with the angelic voice so warm, melodious and smooth it would melt ice-cream.
Alice trades in her apron for a soft and feminine coral gown that shows off her pretty shoulders and she adorns her black hair with a princess tiara. She’s getting invited to meet big wig producers, movers and shakers, at a private party. The entertainment would be Allison Rich’s Joan Blondellian cocktail swilling Hollywood veteran only too happy to pass on the tiara to the up-and-comer.
House mother and sweetheart Cami Thompson-Good Morning Glory
Cami Thompson with her effervescent smile and boundless energy filled her character Willa Brennan with a big heart, down-to-Earth self-respect and decency plus a measure of goodwill toward the humble dreamer working as her waitress, the aspiring transplant from Iowa. Thomspon set the tone for the sweet, high energy, radiant production with a luminous “Good Morning Glory”.
Thompson plays a former vaudevillian whose beloved performing days ended when her husband returned from the Big War shell shocked. The couple bought a diner on a lark but then stepped in front of a bus on a downtown street by accident leaving her a widow and sole owner of the diner. It had been four years before she would find love again with a regular customer passing himself off as a humble accountant. That’s a sweetheart gentleman Adrian “Gil” Gilbert, played by John-Elliott Kirk. They performed a clever and endearing, Cole Porteresque duet across the diner counter.
Nicole Frydman and the ink slingers, Jake McCaffrey and Galen Murphy-Hoffman
Nicole Frydman plays an aspiring actress who like Iris Langston has been around the block. She wryly and benevolently advises the single gentlemen, lowly journalist George Fenton and struggling newspaper boy Jake McCaffrey, that getting the girl takes money not moon beaming. The ink-slinger one step from the gossip columnist and the waste paper basket is actually Shakespearean actor Galen Murphy-Hoffman. Murphy-Hoffman performed in the bloody drama ‘Titus Andronicus’ at Cal Shakes. The fast talking huckster who tries male persuasion on tough cookie Joyce with “Them There Eyes” is the engaging charmer Justin Gillman.
This is a wonderful home-grown San Francisco production definitely worth experiencing.
The theater is on Jackson Square and an easy walk or bike ride from Embarcadero BART. One may purchase a picnic at Safeway and enjoy it in the park before the show. The early start makes a big difference in one’s energy and ability to enjoy the show and get home without being exhausted.
Opening night includes the usual lovely catering from the French restaurant L’Oliver with nice wines and some champagne.
The cast comes out in street clothes and mingles and poses for pictures happily.
Running time two hours, twenty minutes with one intermission.
Tickets $21 to $75 dollars.
Family matinee on Saturday, April 12.
Post show discussions with director and cast today, Sunday, April 6 and Sunday, April 13.
For more information: http://www.42ndstmoon.org/painting-the-clouds