Village Theatre presents a bold, fresh ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’
November 17, 2009
By Chantelle Lusebrink
“Thump, thump, thump, went my heartstrings” as Village Theatre’s energetic holiday cast of “Meet Me In St. Louis” gave audiences the musical equivalent of perfection wrapped under the Christmas tree.
Drenched in dazzling lace and lush velvet dresses, women twirled about by men clad in seersucker and linen suits and a rich wood-paneled Victorian home, set close to the stage’s edge, sucked me inside the Smith family’s 1904 St. Louis home.
Scene three was barely over and I was hooked.
The show’s details are what recreate a feeling of a simpler life and time, but it’s the incredibly well-selected cast and ensemble of 26 that makes this show shine and stand apart from a beloved film, familiar to so many.
With a fresh face and bold vocals, 22-year-old Ryah Nixon returns to Village Theatre in the role of Esther Smith. Her last role at the theater was as Princess Amneris in “Aida” during the 2007-2008 season.
Reprising one of Judy Garland’s most well-known roles, Nixon’s high energy electrifies the stage and her portrayal of Smith, a young woman struck by love, is spot on and full of youth’s innocent exuberance.In an interview prior to the show’s debut, Nixon said she channeled her own young experiences with love to help identify with her character and make it her own.
It shows. The depth of emotion she projects from the stage will leave you as giddy in your plush seat, as if you’re falling in love for the first time.
As carefully selected was the role of Tootie, the film’s original show-stopping cutie, played by Analiese Emerson Guettinger, who is the spitting image of Margaret O’Brien.
Analiese’s comedic timing is second to none and she shows a breadth of emotions not often found at such a young age.
Of course, what would “Meet Me In St. Louis” be without the boy next door, John Truitt, played by Jason Kappus, whose voice melds harmoniously with Nixon’s bold voice and who matches her awkward advances with a nervous energy that makes his own overtures far from suave.
As carefully chosen as its leads, the show’s supporting — often eccentric — characters seemed equally so.
The role of Lon Smith Jr., less developed in the film, gets a chance to breathe new life into the theatrical musical with the help of John David Scott, who plays the rational Princeton student and protective older brother.
Two scene-stealers and audience favorites were Bobbi Kotula, who plays the Smith’s family cook Katie, and Larry Albert, as the Smith children’s zany Grandpa Prophater. Each added their talent for appropriately timed one-liners throughout the production that brought belly laughs from the audience.
A huge surprise to the Village stage were the intricate and high-energy dance numbers for songs like “The Trolley Song,” “Skip To My Lou,” and “The Banjo,” which features an extended tap number performed by Scott.
Nixon’s sincere and somber performance of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was simply a showstopper.
When all is said and done, true love wins and the fireworks explode over St. Louis at the World’s Fair. The true mark of this production is how it seemed to speak to the audience. Village’s “Meet Me In St. Louis” speaks volumes as women giggled through scenes, men hummed “The Trolley Song” at intermission and couples walked out the doors hand in hand.
So, if you’re looking to take a deep breath away from the holiday tree trimming and frantic shopping, take that breath with the ones you love at Village Theatre’s “Meet Me In St. Louis.”
If you go
‘Meet Me in St. Louis’
Nov. 11 – Jan. 3
$19 – $59
Francis J. Gaudette Theatre
303 Front St. N.
Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.