Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 15, 2013

Lies & Legends-Musical Stories of Harry Chapin

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through May 26, 2013
by Eric Sutter

This is not "Any Old Kind of Day" or any old kind of play. First, it was announced that Harry Chapin's widow was in the audience, as she stood and was recoqnized. Second, four singers -- two younger and two older -- weave a magical story around the songs of Harry Chapin. With ups, downs and in-betweens, the story captures the audience. Charmers "Corey's Coming" and "Salt and Pepper" find the cast dancing in a clap and shout footloose jig. Each player has a chance to shine. Human feelings unfold with favorites "Mr. Tanner" and "The Rock." Big hit "Taxi" is sung by John Herrera who catches the character's emotional rejection just right.

Excellent musicianship by the crack band of musical director Mitch Chakour on keyboards, Greg Alexander on guitar, Noah Schmitt on cello, Don Rovero on bass and Tim Hosmer on drums keep the show heartfelt and rolling. The ramblin' story song "Thirty Thousand Pounds of Bananas," about a trucker's dead end dilemma (a hellslide to a pile of mashed bananas), delivers a humorous jolt of laughter. A special dance sequence plays up the shadow of the moody "Sniper" with its dramatic tension to end Act I.

While it might be initially difficult to imagine enough Chapin's songs able to complete a story woven together in a theatrical presentation, Act 2 proves to the contrary. Chapin's music has strong character development unto itself, and combined with the skillful and soulful musical direction of Chakour, the performance becomes a winner. Chakour's piano lead into the cast's harmony singing of the hymn "Nearer, My God, To Thee" seques into the rock n' roll humor of "Danceband on the Titantic" with a spirited pairing of dancing couples. "Mail Order Annie" showcases Tyler Morrill's song and dance routine with beautiful Darcie Champagne.

"WOLD" features Herrera in a stellar version of another Chapin classic that perfectly evokes the character's frustration and loneliness. The lighting is effective throughout the entire production, especially during "Cat's in the Cradle" and the whole cast sing-a-long of  "Odd Job Man." Sonja Stuart shines frequently with a range of emotion from gutsy to sentimental in "A Better Place To Be." The finale is something to behold as it all comes to "Circle."