Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 15, 2013

The Most Happy Fella

Goodspeed Musicals, East Haddam, CT
through December 1, 2013
by Walt Haggerty

Photo by Diane Sobolewski
Once again, Goodspeed Musicals has given the theatre-going public a wonderful reason to celebrate. The current production of Frank Loesser’s masterwork, “The Most Happy Fella,” is a glorious, jubilant, triumphant revival. Like virtually every production at Goodspeed, “Fella” could be transferred to Broadway intact, outshining most of the shows already there.

Considered one of the most “musical of musicals,” “Most Happy Fella” is an unlikely romance between a middle-aged grape grower and a young waitress. The setting is a Napa Valley vineyard in the 1950's. The colorful, enormously talented cast seems born to bring Loesser’s wide-ranging score to show-stopping life.

In the pivotal role of Tony, Bill Nolte is magnificent. He captures the full range of his character's exuberance, anger, and ultimately, warmth, all backed up by a fantastic voice. As Rosabella, Mamie Parris is perfection in her transition from early disappointments and confusion, to true understanding and love, beautifully expressed with her soaring soprano and sensitive interpretation.

In this production, Tony’s sister, Marie, is given an opportunity to define her character through the restoration of “Eyes Like a Stranger.” Ann Arvia’s version reflects Maria’s foreboding and moving sense of loss. Doug Carpenter captures the restless, complicated, personality of Tony’s foreman, Joe, in an impressive performance of the song “Joey.”

Natalie Hill’s Cleo and Kevin Vortmann’s Herman are ideally matched, adding welcome humor at precisely the right moments. Martin Sola, Greg Roderick, and Daniel Berryman each contribute an authentic Italian flavor to the performance in a series of numbers. 

The amazing score reaches from the “pop tune” fun of “Big D” and “Standing on the Corner" to the Puccini-esque operatic richness of “Somebody, Somewhere” and “My Heart Is So Full of You.”

Goodspeed, with two Tony Awards, is recognized as America’s leading producer of first class revivals of Broadway’s treasure chest of musicals. With the inspired direction of Rob Ruggiero, spirited choreography of Parker Esse, and an outstanding cast, it is easy to see why this is so.