Performed at the Royal Academy of Music, London.
Once again a student production provides the opportunity to see a show stage which I had only known previously from a CD.
A Catered Affair (book by Harvey Fierstein and lyrics by John Bucchino) is more a play with music than a full-blown musical and it worked beautifully in this intimate chamber production directed by Matt Ryan. Simple staging ensured that attention was never drawn away from the fine performances.
The show is a study of a moribund marriage, where feelings are never expressed, and which is put under strain following the death of the couple’s son in military action. Further financial pressure is applied when their daughter announces that she wants to get married. The mother, denied an elaborate wedding herself, is determined that her daughter should have the best.
The score of A Catered Affair is full of gentle lyrics with melodies hauntingly underscored by the small orchestra (musical director Jennifer Whyte). ‘Vision’ was a typical example where the mother, Aggie, closed her eyes and visualised the wedding arrangements. Purporting them to be for her daughter, one sensed that they were what she would have liked for her own wedding. The accompanying cello was particularly effective.
In contrast there were two numbers delivered with power and passion – ‘Immediate Family’ arose when Aggie told her brother, Winston, that he was not invited to the wedding. Believing it to be because was gay, he launched into a diatribe. Luke Daking gave a sympathetic portrayal that underplayed the campiness.
Provoked by his wife’s criticisms of their married like together, Tom launches into ‘I Stayed’. Alexander Barria sang this with a ferociousness that had nerve ends tingling.
The part of Aggie was one that called for a strong acting and voice to match – Sian Crisp provided both. Hers was a standout performance.
At some performances alternate principals were used.
Uncle Winston – LUKE DAKING
Myra/Bridal Saleswoman/Alice – KIM BERGKVIST
Pasha /Mrs Halloran – NATALIE TAYLOR GRAY
Dolores/Caterer – ANNIYA PUTNINA
Janey Hurley – JESSICA LOUISE PARKINSON
Ralph Halloran – GONZALO RAMOS
Sam – TOM BRANDON
Tom Hurley – ALEXANDER BARRIA
Aggie Hurley – SIAN CRISP
Mr Halloran – TOM BRANDON
Army Sergeant – AIMEE GRAY