Delightful ‘Me and My Girl’ is Reagle at its best
WALTHAM — Give Bob Eagle and his Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston credit.
He knows what his audiences want and he gives it to them.
Even when staging the grandest and biggest of musicals, Eagle refuses to cut corners, engaging large, well-turned-out casts, employing a full-sized professional orchestra professionally conducted, staging full-scale, professionally choreographed production numbers, and offering solid production values in the areas of sound, lighting and scenic design.
He — and his patrons — have figured out you lose something in shows such as “South Pacific” or “Oklahoma!” when you chintz on the number of horns in the orchestra.
Eagle has come up with a casting formula that has been successful: A few solid leads, usually with Equity players, often with Broadway and/or national tour experience. Add a corps of locally-based, experienced solid supporting actors, and up-and-coming young talent culled from the fertile ground of the theater programs of Boston-area colleges.
So it should come as no surprise that the formula Reagle’s current production of “My One and Only” at the Robinson Theatre through July 20 is a fast, funny, oft-spectacular show, and the cast under the direction of Cynthia Thole wrings every possible laugh out of the material, a funny English class warfare piece that borrows liberally from shows such as “Pygmalion.”
“Me and My Girl” had a successful original run in England in 1937 and became a huge Broadway hit in revival in 1986, nominated for 11 Tony Awards.
The setup: “Me and My Girl” tells the story of Bill Sibson (Joshua Holden), a cockney gent who learns that he is the 14th heir to the Earl of Hareford and must pass a test to inherit his new fortune, which includes both lands and titles.
When he learns that he must also give up his streetwise girlfriend Sally Smith (Jamie Buxton) in order to be accepted by the gentry, Bill faces a timeless choice between love and money.
Bill and his rough-around-the-edges friends invade Hareford Hall, a Downton Abbey-type estate populated by the upper crust of English society.
Bill’s overbearing aunt, Maria, Duchess of Dene (Carole Healey), won’t hear of Bill’s plan of taking money from the estate and abandoning his royal post. She urges him to ditch Sally and get a respectable bride.
Sir John Tremayne, well played by Rishi Basu, is a kindly sort who’s in love with the Duchess and takes it upon himself to help Sally smooth out her rough edges to make her acceptable to the Duchess and the others.
Lady Jacqueline Capstone (Shonna Cirrone) breaks off her engagement to Gerald Bolingbroke (Devon Stone) in search of a better deal: namely, Bill and the Hareford estate.
Chris Charron has some nice moments as Herbert Parchester, the trusted family solicitor who is liable to break into song at any moment about his duties.
Holden as Bill Snibson is a gifted physical comic actor with a finely-honed sense of comic timing, who would be right at home in the British music hall tradition, a la a Benny Hill.
There’s a hilarious scene when he dons royal robes in preparation for a speech before the House of Lords.
Director Thole, who also recreated the original choreography of the show, is a veteran of the Broadway production has a real feel for both the material, and the show is smartly paced.
Dan Rodriguez’s capable music direction and the orchestra conducted by Jeffrey Leonard continue to make a good team.
The staging of several of the production numbers is tricky business, especially the “Son of Hareford” numbers when Bill’s ancestors come alive and he is hilariously introduced to the concept of “noblesse oblige.”
“Doing the Lambeth Walk” — the tribute to Bill’s neighborhood roots — is a delightful production number, as the finale of the first act and later as a joyous encore featuring the entire company.
“Me and My Girl” is what Bob Eagle and the Reagle Music Theatre are all about.
The Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston production of “Me and My Girl.“ Book and Lyrics by L. Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber. Music by Noel Gay. Book Revised by Stephen Fry, with contributions by Mike Ockrent. Directed and choreographed by Cynthia Thole. Assistant Choreographer: Susan M. Chebookjian Music Director: Daniel Rodriguez Assistant Music Director: Luke Flood Conductor: Jeffrey Leonard Lori Baruch: Technical Director David Wilson: Lighting Designer. At the Robinson Theatre through July 20. http://www.reaglemusictheatre.com.