The original production was nominated for three Tony Awards when it ran on Broadway in 2008. The book by Harvey Fierstein, with music and lyrics by John Bucchino, is based on a 1955 television play by Paddy Chayefsky and a 1956 movie adaptation by Gore Vidal.
In this Stagecrafters production, directed by Jay Kaplan, the actors really wrap their arms around the material and its lyrical, thoughtful songs.
“‘A Catered Affair’ isn’t a typical musical,” says Kaplan. “There are no big dance numbers or opportunities to stop the show. It’s realistic and unadorned by razzle-dazzle. This is a small, intimate musical that will play well in the snug confines of the 2nd Stage while giving us an amazing opportunity to present real and human characters.”
The story is a simple and bitter sweet slice of Americana set in the South Bronx circa 1953. Aggie and Tom have scraped by all their lives on Tom’s 3-way partnership in a taxi business. Their only daughter, Janey announces that she and her boyfriend Ralph want to get married right away – a no nonsense Town Hall wedding and a quick get-away. Tom is relieved that Janey is so practical, but Aggie starts dreaming about a big wedding, a “Catered Affair” that is well beyond their budget.
The truth is, both Tom and Aggie are reeling from the death of their beloved “perfect” son in the Korean War. When a representative from the Army brings them a bereavement check, Tom realizes that he can finally buy out one of the partners and make decent money splitting the shifts with his friend Sam. But Aggie becomes obsessed with giving their only daughter the big wedding she never had.
This is, of course, subtext for the love and loss and longing that overcome people who’ve been married a long time and suddenly find their lives taking a dramatic change.
“What I love about ‘A Catered Affair,’ says Kaplan, “is that it is a story about family and human relationships. It provides an intimate close-up look at a family whose means and lives seem relatively simple and yet they are experiencing feelings and emotions that are anything but.”
Once again, Stagecrafters has found a stellar cast. Sue Mancuso is wonderful as Aggie and has some of the show’s sweetest songs. Gary Jones, as her husband Tom, is solid throughout the show but has a wonderful moment in the song, “I Stayed.” Jackie Gubow as Janey and Vince Kelley as her intended, Ralph, are the perfect couple, and their sweet duos showcase their perfect voices.
John Nowaczyk shines in the role of Uncle Winston, the “confirmed bachelor” who is so eager to please everyone but who is ultimately the odd man out. Rounding out the ensemble are Marc Meyers, Jeanne Bourget, Ashley Weber and Tania Velinsky. Kudos to the orchestra, conducted by Matt Horn.
“I’m very fortunate to have an incredibly talented cast and crew to bring this show to life,” says Kaplan. “My goal as a director is to provide the actors with the opportunity to really delve into these characters who seem uncomplicated on the outside yet have complications and issues in their lives. It’s important that I remain true to the creators’ intentions to present a story about everyday people who feel big emotions.”
“A Catered Affair” runs through March 10 at the Baldwin Theatre’s 2nd Stage. Shows are at 8 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Advance tickets are $16. Tickets may be purchased online or by phone at 248-541-6430. All seats are reserved. If shows have not sold out, tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour prior to the performance for an additional $2.00 per ticket.
A complimentary “wedding reception” will be held after Saturday performances with samplings of wedding cakes and desserts. And there will be a Half-Price Student Night on Thursday, February 28th for students with a valid ID. This production is “rated PG-13” for adult situations.