Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Most Happy Fella
42nd Street Moon
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Cinderella, Treasure Island, The Untamed Stage, Laura Osnes at Feinstein's, and The Boy from Oz

Martin Rojas Dietrich and Amanda Johnson
Photo by David Allen
As its final musical of the season, 42nd Street Moon is presenting Frank Loesser's glorious Napa Valley romance, the Tony Award-winning The Most Happy Fella. Some call this Frank Loesser's magnificent opera and I tend to go along with that. Director Cindy Goldfield's production compares favorably to the original production in 1956 with Robert Weede in the title role of Tony.

Tony (Martin Rojas Dietrich), an aging Italian immigrant who owns a California vineyard, falls for a sweet, hard-working San Francisco waitress he calls Rosabella (Amanda Johnson). He courts her through letters, but when she asks for a picture of him, Tony reacts to his sister's warnings that the beautiful Rosabella will not respond to his looks, he sends a photo of the handsome foreman Joe (Noel Anthony) instead.

Rosabella arrives, discovers the deceit, and is about to leave when Tony is badly injured in a car accident. She is shocked and feels defeated, so she resigns herself to marry him. As Tony recovers, their relationship grows cautiously and it ends well. There is a comic subplot involving Cleo (Nichole Frydman), a waitress friend who accompanies Rosabella, and Herman (Robbie Rescigno), one of Tony's employees.

Loesser's score is full of wonderful songs, chorales, recitatives like "Abbondanza," underscoring, and dances in every style, from romantic songs like "My Heart Is So Full of You" to vaudeville like "Big D" and "Standing On the Corner." This is a brilliant score sung at 42nd Street Moon by superlative singers.

Cindy Goldfield, who also did the energetic choreography, has assembled a large cast of singers to present this over two hour production. Martin Rojas Dietrich as Tony and Amanda Johnson as Rosabella have fabulous vocal cords in "Happy to Make Your Acquaintance" and "My Heart Is So Full of You." Martin also gives a poignant rendition of "Mamma, Mamma." These are breathtaking moments.

There are comic Puccini moments with a trio of singers (Daniel Olson, Scott Maraj, and Tim Wagner) singing "Abbondanza" and "Sposalizio." Noel Anthony as Joe with his stunning voice does full justice to his aria "Joey, Joey, Joey," and Robbie Rescigno, Michael Monagle, Scott Maraj, and Noel Anthony are terrific on the pop tune "Standing on the Corner." One of the highlights of the show is the "Big D" number, with dazzling singing and dancing by Nicole Frydman and Robbie Rescigno. Caroline Altman skillfully plays Tony's jealous sister and she sings "A Long Time Ago" and "Young People" beautifully. As Doc, Calvin Smith with pitch perfect vocal cords agreeably sings "Love and Kindness."

Dave Dobrusky on piano, Nick Di Scala on woodwinds, and Andre David Vera on cello provide great backup of Frank Loesser's score.

This is Artistic Director Greg Mackellan's swan song, as he will now retire to Southern California. He brought this company to San Francisco 23 years ago and during that time he has presented many outstanding forgotten musicals. The 42nd Street Board President said it best: "Greg's contribution to this company and to keeping the American Musical Theatre canon alive cannot be overstated."

42nd Street Moon's The Most Happy Fella plays through May 15, 2016, at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtain by calling 415-255-8207 or visiting Coming up next will be the final salon series Coming Up Roses: The Jule Styne Salon with special guests Nancy Dussault and Emily Skinner on Monday and Tuesday, May 9 and 10th.

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