Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 12, 2009

Lumberjacks in Love

Majestic, West Springfield
Through 2/15/09
Shera Cohen

Last year’s Majestic sleeper was “Guys on Ice.” It will be no surprise if this season’s “Lumberjacks in Love” becomes the surprise hit in The Theater Project’s 12th anniversary. Brought to you by the “Guys” guys – writers/lyricists/musicians Fred Alley and James Kaplan and director/designer Danny Eaton – “Lumberjacks” is similar in style, script, and sound.

The audience sees a rustic set depicting what will become indoor and outdoor scenes. The cabin wood and real trees smell freshly cut. Musical director Amy Roberts-Crawford fingers the first notes of the title song on her keyboard as the quartet of actors (donned in corduroy, flannel, and plaid) sing and dance. They are all having fun, and that feeling is responded to in kind by the full house in attendance.

Lumberjack buddies of some years; these are comrades who know each other well – warts and all. While only in rehearsal for six weeks, the actors are also very much in synch. A series of small musical numbers strings the plot together to include many ensemble songs. Also, each actor is offered his chance to shine alone.

Eric Love, Van Farrier, David Mason, and Alec Nelson give their characters humor, warmth, and depth. Nelson (also in “Guys”) essentially portrays the same man – dim yet lovable. As the leader of the pack, Love is a convincing life-long bachelor. A regular on the Majestic’s stage is Farrier, who makes his “Dirty Bob” a charm. Mason’s “Muskrat” was probably the most difficult role as it was his job to make the audience feel empathy and, at the same time, laugh outrageously. Toss in a couple of gals – after all, the lumberjacks are “in love” – portrayed by the young Shelby Leshine and Equity actress Cate Damon, and this musical is completely entertaining.

Choreographer Brian Fournier sets a good deal of the action as purposely clumsy 1950s-style singer and back-up dancers’ movements. Damon and Love are perfect in the very funny “Hernando’s Hide-away” duet. As director Danny Eaton said in the talk-back, these are excellent actors who can also sing and dance, which is why he selected this cast. He selected well.