|A CHRISTMAS MEMORY|
If you’re looking for family-friendly entertainment, or just a really tuneful musical, you can do nicely by spending the evening with the family of Buddy, the precocious Southern boy at the center of “A Christmas Memory,” the appealing adaptation of Truman Capote’s autobiographical short story, now being presented the Irish Repertory Theatre at the DR2 Theatre.
Duane Poole’s economical script first introduces to the grown-up Buddy (Ashley Robinson) as he returns to his childhood Alabama home and reconnects with his former housekeeper Anna Stabler (the excellent Virginia Anne Woodruff). Soon, the pair are reminiscing about the pivotal Christmas in Buddy’s childhood, most notably, the young Buddy’s (an impressive Silvano Spagnuolo) close relationship with the sweet-natured, slightly eccentric Sook (Tony Award winner Alice Ripley), one of three older cousins who are raising the child after his parents’ divorce (and his mother’s abandonment).
While the story is simple enough, focusing primarily on the making of fruitcake, Buddy’s love-hate friendship with the tomboyish Nelle Harper (a well-cast Taylor Richardson), and his encounters with the colorful townsfolk, the show’s score by Larry Grossman (music) and Carol Hall (lyrics) is surprisingly strong. Among the many musical highlights are the enchanting, hummable “Alabama Fruitcake,” Anna’s spirited “Detour,” the lovely ballad “Nothing More than Stars,” in which both Buddys are joined by their melancholy cousin Seabon (a very fine Samuel Cohen, who plays all the male roles), and the heart-wrenching “You Don’t Know It,” which gives us the backstory of the haughty, practical cousin Jennie (superbly embodied by Nancy Hess), who runs the family with an iron fist and a satin glove.
Without question, Charlotte Moore’s straightforward production, abetted by Barry McNabb’s choreography and James Noone’s simple set, gets the job done. However, the show does feel a bit underpowered, and on more than few occasions, the three-piece orchestra seems to overpower much of the cast (who would benefit from being miked.) Ripley, of course, has no trouble projecting, though her belting voice seems slightly out of character for Sook.
Still, despite its few flaws, this is one “Memory” worth making for kids of all ages.
By Brian Scott Lipton
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Alice Ripley, Samuel Cohen, Nancy Hess, Taylor Richardson, Ashley Robinson, Virginia Ann Woodruff, Silvano Spagnuolo
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