Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 20, 2015

Bells Are Ringing

Berkshire Theatre Group
Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
through July 26, 2015
by Shera Cohen

Ella Peterson, a lovely young woman who sits at her station in her big skirt and crinoline slip, is bored with her job as an operator at a small answering service agency. She is essentially a disembodied voice to the “real people” who make or receive phone calls. Ella adds meaning to her life and spice to others as she rather unintentionally puts herself in the middle of situations as an erstwhile match maker.

Back up. Crinoline? Answering service? Readers under age 40 may be clueless about 1950’s garb and the environs of “Bells Are Ringing.” Let’s just call this an historical musical penned and mounted by a who’s who in musical theatre; i.e. writers Comden and Green, composer Jule Styne, director Jerome Robbins, choreographer Bob Fosse. With such a resume, “Bells” can’t help but be a delight.

Photo By Michelle McGrady
Kate Baldwin (Ella) exudes the style of Lucille Ball -- somewhat daffy, optimistic, and wholesome. Everybody likes her. Especially the audience. This lady has a powerful soprano voice, able to hold those long end notes. Graham Rowat (client Jeffrey, who Ella has fallen for simply by the sound of his voice) is a singer first and foremost. His “I Met a Girl” is poignant. Duets “Long Before I Knew You” and “Just In Time” move the characters’ love story forward.

Kudos to director Ethan Heard and his set and lighting designer team who create an ever changing and colorful “Laugh In” type geometric spaces. While sets change often, yet seamlessly, these backdrop boxes splash lights and hues. “Bells” is a long musical with a lot of songs -- some not essential to the story. A recommendation would be to condense or cut a tune or two. “Hello, Hello There,” with it’s repetitious lyrics, false stops, and just plain silliness would be no loss.

At curtain call during this particular performance, the cast forgot to point to and credit the talented pit band (large by non-Broadway standards). Spotlight gives a tip of the hat.

“Bells” is a feel good show with a ridiculous plot (actually three) with humor at its foundation. This musical is “Just In Time” this summer.