Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 31, 2023

Review: Goodspeed Musicals, "Summer Stock"

Goodspeed, East Haddam, CT
through August 27, 2023
by Suzanne Wells

Photo by Diane Sobolewski
"Summer Stock" is wholesome entertainment with a variety of music, dancing, and a modern twist. If seeking a re-creation of the 1950’s movie, audiences will be slightly disappointed as there is no tractor in this production. However, even though the motivation has changed, the plot - saving the farm, producing the show, and falling in love - all remain an integral part of this story.

Writer Cheri Steinkellner adapted the movie into this stage production, subtly incorporating the challenges of equality for race, gender, and sexual orientation into the storyline, without diminishing the hopeful, feel-good characteristics of the musical. In addition, Steinkellner increased the score from nine to 20 songs including a variety of hits like “The Best Things in Life are Free” and “It Had to Be You.”

Set in the Connecticut River Valley, the scenery, designed by Wilson Chin, is comprised of the Wingate drawing room, the farmhouse, and the barn/stage, providing perspectives from onstage and backstage, for the latter. Collaborating with lighting designer Jeff Croiter, the timeline transitions from sunrise to sunset, and from one beautiful starry night to one vividly pink morning. Costume designer, Tina McCartney’s dons her cast in flannel pajamas, overalls, dancewear, and military uniforms which further enhances the creation of a mid-20th century farm turned theatre.

Danielle Wade as Jane Falbury, has a beautiful voice and is a graceful, acrobatic dancer. However, she was occasionally overpowered by the live orchestra, and overshadowed by Arianna Rosario who played her sister, Gloria Falbury, in almost every scene they shared. Wade’s performance of “Get Happy,” while a lovely tribute to Judy Garland’s movie performance, was slightly lacking in the earthy sensuality that makes that particular gospel song remarkable. 

Corbin Bleu as Joe Ross is a marvelous dancer – strong, powerful, and flexible. He is a joy to watch. His solo performance pays homage to Gene Kelly, mixing everyday items into the routine including a clothing rack, and of course, the newspaper that ultimately leads to the answer to all their problems. 

Gilbert L. Bailey II as Phil Filmore and Will Roland as Orville Wingate II are hilarious as they establish a blossoming friendship and possible romance. However, Veanne Cox as Margaret Wingate and J. Anthony Crane as Montgomery Leach, ramp the comedy up several notches with their rendition of “Red Hot Mamma” to initiate their overly dramatic, over the top romance.