“Whipped cream fixes everything” ~ Dottie O`Farrell, A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME
Bucks County Playhouse’s world premiere of the sensational, savory new musical, A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME is superbly directed and choreographed by Lorin Latarro (Broadway’s new musical Waitress). An all-female cast, and band, bring a saucy, curvy zest to this all appealing comedy, but also some serious food for thought regarding sociopolitical changes spanning over a decade, from the effects of later 1940s, when men returned from war and women rejoined the traditional role of homemaker into the 1950′s, to the countercultural “swingin” 60s.
Four women, Joan Smith (Ariana Shore), Connie Olsen (Erin Mackey), Dottie O’Farrell (Allison Guinn) and Agnes Crookshank (Gina Naomi Baez) from Winnetka, IL, get together for their usual Wednesday cooking coterie, circa 1957. It is a time when Betty Crocker reigned as the queen of cookery and people posted their problems to “Dear Abby”, to concoct some rip-roaring recipes for a contest and to share the “dish” with the hilarious number “Didja Hear?”. Things begin to heat up as differences of opinion, ambition and taste rise to the surface boiling over towards the end of the first act after the stirring number, “In Limbo”. In the second act, the four friends agree to meet up at again, at Joan’s invitation. It’s ten years later, circa 1967, and Joan, in a modernized kitchen is still cooking soup, but also stirring the pot. The altered atmosphere of the 60′s is jubilantly introduced by the far-out musical number, “Ya Dig”, and by dramatic changes in wardrobe. Hilarity further ensues as the four friends catch up with each other, and yet their individual, insightful stories also reflecting the tumultuous cultural changes between decades.
Each character is well defined and given a distinct essence. Ariana Shore imbues Joan with open warmth, and a stunning voice, catalyzing each scene. She skillfully depicts an “earth mother”; a nourisher armed with soup, beautiful, caring, strong and persistent. Connie is taken from naivete, with a stop for an epiphany, to enlightened free spirit, with grace, style with vocal vim via Erin Mackey. Allison Guinn plays Dottie with healthy dash of mustard, a pistol full of perfectly timed peppery remarks and a boisterously bountiful belt! Agnes Crookshank craves the spice of life, and Gina Naomi Baez provides it through her vivacious physicality, expressiveness and sultry singing. Each character manages to find her identity and place in the melee of cultural upheaval. Together these energetic and talented performers are a force to behold, especially in the many magnificent music numbers, including “Dear Abby”, “Just in Case”, “Happy Hour”, “Somethin’s Burnin”, “The Whomp”, “Food” and the touching, bittersweet finale “In Time”.
The hearty band, featuring Rosann Mattei on guitar, Cyndy Elliot on bass and Beth Faulstick on drums, with Musical direction by Lena Gabrielle on keys, keeps the beat through the different modes of music with pomp and piquancy, and are particularly noticeable in the second act…
An outstanding set (Steven C. Kemp), with it’s bodacious backdrops, neat props and moveable pieces is paired with complementary projections (Stephen Stivo Arnoczy), many of which provoked much laughter, a daring lighting design (Nathan W. Scheuer), and a successful sound scheme (Matthew Given). Costuming (Dana Burkart), make-up and hair are tastefully done. The clothing not only looks great, but also moves well with the action onstage.
Debra Barsha and Hollye Levin render a rich, witty, terrifically entertaining musical tour of this era through their book, lyrics and score. Sprinkled with furiously funny lines, steeped in talent, and infused with courageous choreography by Lorin Latorro, A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME is boldly brilliant theatrical buffet with something for everyone!
[Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S Main St, New Hope, PA]; January 30-February 21, 2016; bcptheater.org