April 19, 2014

A regal setting at Thomaston Opera House

Richard Damaso as The King and Cristin Tillinghast as Anna appear in the Thomaston Opera House production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.

Richard Damaso as The King and Cristin Tillinghast as Anna appear in the Thomaston Opera House production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.Richard Damaso as The King and Cristin Tillinghast as Anna appear in the Thomaston Opera House production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.There are some shining moments and some not so shining moments in the Thomaston Opera House’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I.” 

Richard Damaso does a darn good job as the King. Damaso who never falters vocally, tends to be too mean until the final scene of Act I. Cristin Tillinghast as Anna also performs well. She definitely looks the part in her hoop skirts and tidy appearance. While she too never falters vocally, at times it seems as though she is concentrating more on her vocal performance than the emotion that prompted the song. 

Because some of the vocals are excellent and some not so, there is an obvious unevenness in the talent. However, there’s nothing uneven about Jamie Hatcher’s voice or her performance. She is delightful as Lady Thiang. The same holds true for Katie Brunetto who plays Tuptim, one of the young star-crossed lovers. Daniel Dressel plays LunTha, Tuptim’s lover. Others featured include Gary Kline as Sir Edward Ramsey, Ian Pekar as Louis, and John Paul Henares as Prince Chulalongkorn. 

The brightest moment is the ballet “The Small House of Uncle Thomas.” It was spot on. It flowed seamlessly and expertly. Lily Orelup, Joel Orelup, Daniel Dressel, Lynn Marie D’Ambrosi, Amy Ferrarotti, Caitlin Barra, John Henares, and Joseph Bukowski did an outstanding job in presenting this beautiful scene. 

Another bright moment in this production is when the curtain first opens and reveals a stunning exotic set by David Verdosci, set designer and artist. Everything about it looks regal.

There are some problems with the production, many of which are related to the blocking and pace of the show. For instance, when the two lovers are singing how they can’t wait to be in each other’s arms, they pull away from each other and stand apart. Also, there are dead spaces when nothing is happening on stage. These usually occur between scenes, but this affects the flow of the three-hour production, which seems longer because of the pace. 

Director Lucia M. Dressel keeps the integrity of this musical intact. Musical director Lynne Kearney presents songs that have now become classics like “I Whistle A Happy Tune,” “Hello, Young Lovers,” and “Shall We Dance.” The orchestra needed more rehearsal time, especially for the Overture, which set the tone for the show. So many times throughout the performance, a note got lost and took a moment with it. 

Renee Purdy’s costume designs looked like costumes. I’m still trying to figure out the need for the overly dark and gruesome hooded henchmen who arrived on stage looking like they were ready for Halloween. 

Choreographer Caitlin Barra never missed a step in presenting everything from the waltz to the ballet. Dance provided many shining moments in this production. 

Overall, this community theater production of “The King and I” is entertaining. It just seems to be without that spark that comes straight from the heart and ignites the stage.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association, and covers art and culture in a blog for CBS National and CBS-CT. She welcomes comments. Contact: jgrochman@gmail.com