You are hereTheatre Reviews / Performances - alphabetically by show / Do I Hear A Waltz? at the Masquers

Do I Hear A Waltz? at the Masquers

  • warning: Illegal string offset 'files' in /home/cintegri/reviews/modules/upload/upload.module on line 281.
  • warning: Illegal string offset 'files' in /home/cintegri/reviews/modules/upload/upload.module on line 281.
  • warning: Illegal string offset 'files' in /home/cintegri/reviews/modules/upload/upload.module on line 281.
  • warning: Illegal string offset 'files' in /home/cintegri/reviews/modules/upload/upload.module on line 281.

By Theresa de Valence - Posted on 09 November 2008

How well do you understand your “secret” inner longings? Well enough that you could take advantage of an opportunity if it arose? Interesting question, and it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Do I Hear A Waltz was created by three Broadway greats: music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and story by Arthur Laurents. This production is directed by Dennis Lickteig with Joanne Gabel as Music Director.

Leona Samish (Alison Peltz, photo left), an American secretary, travels to the Fioria Pensione in Venice, Italy for a vacation. Leona acknowledges she has spent much of her life on the outside looking in and has become adept at recognizing the secret yearnings of others. But here, in her first trip out of the country, she is longing for a great romance of her own. ( Photo by Jerry Telfer ).

In this play, Leona comes upon two great discoveries of travellers: one, that who we are is greatly defined by other people’s expectations, and two, being away from one’s usual world gives one the freedom to choose to respond differently, i.e. to become a different person. Taking advantage of an opportunity is rarely as simple as “take the moment, let it happen,” but Leona is encouraged by being in a brand new world. Sadly, it turns out that she is less able to read herself than she can read others.

Leona is funny and touching. Expressive with a strong clear delivery, she takes possession of the stage. Alison is a fine actress with a magnificent voice; as Leona, she is the undisputed star of this show. This is only the second time I have seen Alison; having been impressed the first time (see She Loves Me, TPIT XXV-6), I wonder how many other treasures Masquers has hidden for our future joy!

That we are all confined by other people’s expectations is a discovery made by the young American couple, the Yeagers. Jennifer Yeager (Beverley Viljoen) wants never to leave Italy, free now of the impressions which tied her to being a “dumb blond” and doomed to disappointment. She needs constant reassurance that she and her husband are a perfectly lovely couple, destined for lifelong happiness. A perky, frivolous character with a tragic side.

Eddie Yeager (William Giammona) delivers a choice solo of how to shop in Italy. He represents both halves of the barter with one of the parts female, delivered in falsetto. Magnificent!

Handsome Eddie is encouraged to find his passionate, animalistic side and free himself from others’ expectations. Eddie falls for the bait and is full of wonder at being free in a strange new land. Predictably, Eddie, having been tempted and now full of repentance, wants to remove his wife from a world which she enjoys.

The last couple staying at the pensione, the McIlhennys, are a parody of travelling Americans: wealthy, comfortable, eager for the sights, and impervious to Italian culture. Mrs. McIlhenny is deftly played by Anna Albanese (an old hand at the Masquers, to judge by the applause heard when she appeared onstage). Mr. McIlhenny (Scott Alexander Ayres) is a jolly man enjoying the loose friendliness of the ambiance until his puritanical side (also typically American) surfaces.

Renato Di Rossi (Paul Macari, photo right) is a poor Italian shopkeeper with encumbrances. An extremely attractive man with a well-nigh irresistable mane of hair, he falls for Leona. With penetrating glances, he conveys his interest to her. Renato’s manner is everything any woman ever wished for: close, gently insistent, and passionate. Leona falls.

Until we are confronted by his encumbrances. Renato is chasing his own illusion; he sees a part of Leona that she does not disclose to others. But is it really there? Once the illusion crashes, irritatingly, Renato is always right about the human condition; he presents Leona with the folly of her own expectations. He mocks her and goads her, and tells her she must take a chance on life. Nicely done.

Fioria (Ellen Brooks), the innkeeper, is living proof that seductiveness is not a quality limited to the very young. Fioria’s costumes are hugely flattering on this elegant, self-possessed woman. Fioria adds considerably to the flavour of Italian romance: she is voluptuous, desirable, and willing. I don’t know Fioria’s age, but she has had a satisfactory life, and she’s not yet done! Excellent!

Giovanna (Diane Ratto) is a character who changes dramatically during the play and is my vote for Actress Most Enjoying Herself. She starts out as a taciturn, English-language-challenged, Plain Jane and ends up being a very warm character. She has great opportunity to win our hearts as she presents us with mistranslations, pantomime, and ridiculous English lessons.

Mauro (Sylas Cooper, playing, or Christopher Urquhart). The young Mauro is a guide for Leona. He is droll; somehow one expects such an insinuating character to be grinning from ear to ear, but Mauro knows he’s funny and still he keeps a straight face. A well-crafted performance.

Vito (Nick Hauser) is a polite, deferential young man. A performance which had me wondering why he wasn’t embarrassed by his father’s antics—a bit too realistic, perhaps!

There were a few complications. While I do not appear to have as much trouble with people imitating Italian accents as I do with imitations of British accents, I didn’t understand several words in songs at the beginning. I’m a relatively short person and I couldn’t see over the head of the person in front of me. Hopefully the Masquers new seats will be more offset. The set, designed by John Hull, was lovely: the granite looked like it had been quarried, the mahogany wood detailed, the background like buildings on a canal, but there was no set change when we appeared inside the shop, so I had no cue we were talking to a shopkeeper until much, much later.

If you argue and rationalize about personal growth, has one experienced any growth? Characters in the play are offered opportunities to pursue dreams and the opportunity is taken. Some are wrecked, some try to hang on... We discover, along with Leona, that we are who we already are.

The show is often funny, sometimes sad, but satisfying.