If you loved Guys and Dolls you’ll love the Landmark Community Theatre’s production of E. Karl Gallmeyer’s “The Thrill of It All”. As a composer, Gallmeyer is having a banner year in 2014; his “Western Suite” was performed by the Torrington Symphony Orchestra during their Pops concert at the Cornucopia. Now, a fully realized musical with book, lyrics and music all crafted by Gallmeyer is lovingly brought to life at the Thomaston Opera House.
The Opera House is a beautiful cathedral to the arts and every production benefits from this historic stage. Before the show even begins, the audience is entertained by Juan Cardona Jr’s expert musicianship on the restored house organ, especially his rousing rendition of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”. Then the lights dim as audio cues feed our imaginations. We are transported to a different time when radio was the home entertainment system and opening a general store on the weekend was a new idea.
We are introduced to a gentleman of some years who opens a trunk of memories. Though he says no words in the entire production, George Paris provides a memorable character here and the audience instantly connects with him. With “Memories of Home” we are introduced to the town of Fair Oaks, Indiana where young Jimmy Applebaum, played with gusto by the talented Rodney K, loves his long time girlfriend Mary Rand but longs for adventure in the big city. Mary Rand is portrayed by professional Guest Artist Mandy Leigh Thompson and she treats the audience with “When We Were Young” and “When There is Love”, enjoys a duet with Jeannine Gallmeyer who plays Applebaum’s mother “Men” and provides a heartfelt duet with Rodney K with “When Did it Start”.
The play kicks into high gear once the intrepid Applebaum reaches Chicago. There are three fast paced songs right in a row “Welcome to the Second City” is helmed admirably by Matt Cornish and Joe McCann who play double roles in the production. “The Thrill of it All” is a true ensemble piece featuring the Chicago crew and it’s the marquee song in the show. And “Working Girl” is a raucous number featuring Stephanie J. Varanelli Miles as Evie Starling, supported with care and attention to detail in their humorous roles by Catherine Thoben-Quirk as Vi and Laura Solocius as Gladys. Choreography was created by Varenelli Miles and each performer hits their mark.
Playing a pivotal double role is John Chenkus and he’s a mentor figure for Applebaum in both settings. Chenkus is given many of the playful lines and he delivers them with a wink and a nod. John Fabiani has fun as an uptight waiter named Henri and provides great physical comedy that was part Peter Sellers, part John Cleese. Joe Stofko as a tailor sings “Clothes Make the Man” as Applebaum begins to enjoy the perks of the Windy City. Judge Haven is portrayed by Doug Schlicher, an actor with amazing authoritative voice that’s perfect for the role. With Irish accent firmly in place, Zach Heidorn sings “Welcome Gents”, a song that my daughter found eminently funny. The ensemble of Diane Magas, Brian LeClerc and Steve Sorriero fill out both locations with characters we enjoy seeing on the stage.
For me the Orchestra gets a special nod of appreciation. E Karl Gallmeyer of course is the director and is at the piano and his musicianship is flawless but equally satisfying is the work of reed instrument players (John Turner, Bill Conner, John Christie) the trumpets (Ryan Vacca, Cheryl Whalen) trombones (Jim Luurtsema and Eric Myers), the bass Michael Louchen and Percussion (Tyson Chamberlin) all of whom perform this new work as if they owned it.
There will be only three more opportunities to see this show, all this weekend: 10/31, 11/1 and 11/2.