Two Gentlemen of Verona (Review)

CCM production is full of infectious dance energy

Critic's Pick

Two Gentlemen of Verona at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) epitomizes the concept of “musical comedy.” This 1971 show features music by Hair composer Galt MacDermot. It has the joyful, youthful energy of his earlier hit, plus a delightfully silly story from Shakespeare about two young men and their pursuit of love.

CCM has brought back dancer and choreographer Andrew Palermo, a 1995 grad who has succeeded in New York, to stage a show he appeared in as a CCM student. Infectious invention and 26 performers who hardly ever stop dancing fuel this two-weekend production.

This show demonstrates CCM’s depth of talent: Most of the cast could step into Two Gentlemen’s featured roles and hold their own. As an ensemble they're simply stellar, especially dancing Palermo’s wonderfully creative ensemble numbers, including “I Love My Father," "Calla Lily Lady” (a Calypso number with banana-festooned hats) and the high-speed “Thurio’s Samba.”

The featured performers are excellent in the seesaw tale of love that’s up, then down, then up again. Justin Scott Brown is the amorous and self-centered Proteus, and Josh Adam Toney is a truly romantic Valentine, with an alluring voice to match. Ashley Kate Adams plays the abandoned Julia with sweet vulnerability, while Lauren Sprague is Silvia, a comic vixen whose moves manage to be both amusing and enticing.

Amusing moments abound, including a tiny tent that eventually accommodates eight performers and two lovebirds who edge through an audience aisle for an embrace. I especially enjoyed Carl Draper as the a manipulative politician, Ryan Breslin as a saucy servant (with an invisible dog) who turns dazzlingly athletic flips and Garrett Hawe as Silvia’s smarmy, puffed-up fiancé Thurio.

The production features Justin Barisonek’s university-town Verona set, where everyone wears preppy button-down shirts and rep ties, then becomes ultra-hip Milan, populated by citizens wearing shades of black and sipping Starbucks. Reba Senske created the clever costumes.

TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, presented by UC's College-Conservatory of Music, continues through March 8. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.

Rick Pender

RICK PENDER has written about theater for CityBeat since its first issues in 1994. Before that he wrote for EveryBody’s News. From 1998 to 2006 he was CityBeat’s arts & entertainment editor. Retired from a long career in public relations, he’s still a local arts fan, providing readers (and public radio listeners)...
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