Musical review: ‘The Robber Bridegroom’ — playing in Littleton through April 30
Special to the Daily
Located right downtown in Littleton, the Town Hall Arts Center has racked up a reputation as a small theater with the ability to draw from the wider Denver talent pool. As such, its shows are typically topnotch and the 260-seat theater offers an intimate space that’s still big enough to stage more ambitious productions.
That’s the case with “The Robber Bridegroom,” a bustling musical comedy that’s based on a Eudora Welty short story about a charming thief, a wealthy planter and his daughter in 18th Century Mississippi. With a live, five-piece bluegrass band driving the show, “The Robber Bridegroom” starts fast and never lets up in a 90-minute, intermission-less romp that’s as fun as it is quirky.
With books and lyrics by Alfred Uhry (“Driving Miss Daisy”), “Bridegroom” is a Southern-fried fiasco of mistaken identities, with conniving scoundrels, distressed damsels, evil stepmothers and dumb-as-rocks henchmen — all of whom, it turns out, can sing and dance pretty dang well. The show is short on dialogue but packed with no less than 16 songs, backed up by a crack band of fiddles, banjos, keyboards and guitar.
There’s so much going on, in fact, that you can be forgiven if you’re not 100 percent sure of exactly what’s going on and who’s-who (I’m not sure I ever figured out who the bird lady was). But no matter: The breakneck pace is part of the fun and it all makes sense in the end.
Director Bob Wells did a nice job casting this production and the set design and musical direction flowed together as the on-stage musicians were joined by some of the principals and townsfolk to evoke a seamless back-and-forth. The actors are also the stage hands and they’re as likely to be striking a set piece while singing in the chorus as they are to be crawling on a trellis above the band to then kick their feet over the side and bust out a solo.
Centerpiece of the action
Driving all of that motion is the stellar choreography of Kelly Kates, who takes advantage of Town Hall’s wide stage to mount square-dance style reels with the entire cast that appeared to go off without a hitch (despite my seeing this on only the show’s second night).
“The Robber Bridegroom” may not be your cup of moonshine if bluegrass isn’t your thing but if you’ve ever wondered what something such as “The Tempest” might look like if it was set to banjo and took place along the Natchez Trace, then this may be just the ticket.
As a mud-season getaway, downtown Littleton is a nice place for dinner, a drink and a stroll and Town Hall is a real centerpiece of the action.
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