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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 21, 2018

‘The Most Happy Fella’

Theater group to perform musical three times this weekend
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jun 13, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Tony Esposito, played by Tom Voorhees, leads adults and children alike in a song upon receiving a letter from his love interest, Rosabella.

Fairfield Area Community Theatre will perform the musical “The Most Happy Fella” this weekend at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Sunday, and a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m.

 

Directorial debut

The occasion marks Laura L. Smith’s debut as a director. No stranger to the stage, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in English and theater studies and a master’s in stage management before embarking on a career as a professional stage manager on cruise ships. She moved to Fairfield in 2000 and has been here ever since.

Smith is from Kansas City and did her undergrad at Niagara University in New York. She had a bit part in her college’s rendition of “The Most Happy Fella” in which she had one line.

“I had never heard of the show before, but I grew to love it,” she said. “When I was given the opportunity to direct, I said I’d direct if I can do ‘The Most Happy Fella.’”

F.A.C.T. has never performed this musical ever before, and rehearsals were the first time many cast members had been exposed to its songs.

“The rewarding part was hearing from the actors about how the music was growing on them,” Smith said.

 

Synopsis

The musical’s lyrics, score and book were written in 1956 by Frank Loesser, who also wrote the musical “Guys and Dolls.” It tells the story of lonely Italian immigrant and wine maker Tony Esposito, who falls in love with young waitress Rosabella after months of exchanging letters.

Tony, well aware of his old age and poor appearance, solicits a picture from his handsome ranch hand, Joe, which he mails to Rosabella, claiming it to be his own. The two agree to marry, but when Rosabella goes to visit Tony in Napa, she learns he has nearly died in a car accident.

Despite his betrayal, Rosabella agrees to go through with their mail-order bride agreement, but not before having a fling with Joe. As Tony recuperates, Rosabella ends up truly falling for him. Will their love last? Will Tony learn of Rosabella’s indiscretion with Joe? Come to the show to find out!

Smith said she chose the musical because it’s a story of forgiveness.

“They see each other’s flaws and still love through them,” she said. “That’s when infatuation graduates into real love, and I like that kind of love. Plus, I like lots of Italian things. My favorite movie is ‘The Godfather.’”

The cast started rehearsals eight weeks ago. Smith did the casting with help from band director Jim Edgeton.

“He’s helped me a lot and has been my mentor,” Smith said. “I jokingly say, though it’s not really a joke, that he’s the grandmaster and I’m a lowly grasshopper. He helped me decide who would be good for each role and whose voice can handle which part.”

Edgeton directs the 11-piece pit orchestra that accompanies the show.

 

The cast

Torie Hollingsworth stars as Rosabella. Smith heard her voice for the first time last year when she auditioned for “A Christmas Story.”

“I was like, ‘Wow, who is that?’” Smith recalled. “She blew me away. I knew she’d be a great asset to the show, and at auditions, she was the perfect fit for Rosabella.”

Tom Voorhees stars as Tony. Smith and Voorhees have worked together on stage many times, in “Mary Poppins” and “A Time Out of Rhyme,” just to name a few.

“Tom is a fellow thespian, and when he showed up, I knew he’d have the commitment necessary for this role,” Smith said. “He and Torie had big books full of music because they sing more than they speak.”

Joe is played by Tom Allen, who portrayed the narrator in “A Christmas Story.”

“I know from working with him that he’s good at what he does,” Smith said. “I really like his voice. He has great vibrato. His character Joe is a studly foreman who’s dating all the women in town, but he’s an antsy guy who needs to travel.”

 

Supporting roles

Rosabella’s friend and fellow waitress Cleo is played by Tena Edlin, who Smith “adores.”

“She has been one of my favorites on the Fairfield stage since I first moved here,” Smith said. “She and I often audition for the same role, so I knew I’d cast her in the role I’d want.”

Cleo’s love interest is farmhand Herman, played by John Grunwald. The two share a musical number “Big D” about the city of Dallas. Grunwald’s son Blair sings in a quartetwith him that performs “Standing on the Corner.”

Meredith Siemsen plays Marie, Tony’s spinster sister. Her mother put Marie in charge of looking after her big brother, and he is the only person in her life.

“She never married, never had kids, never had a life of her own because she was devoted to her big brother. She’s following through on the promise she made to Mom,” Smith said. “When Rosabella enters the scene, it’s a threat because her brother is being taken from her. She’s like a helicopter sister.”

Three Italian servants are played by Joe Phipps as Pasquale, Patrick Bosold as Ciccio, and Grant Ward as Giuseppe. Pasquale is Herman’s boss and Tony’s right-hand man.

“Pasquale can be kind of grumpy but he’s sweet to the bride,” Smith said. “All three are fantastic and wonderful to work with.”

The three sing “Abbondanza,” a song entirely in Italian. Italian words and phrases are sprinkled throughout the musical.

Smith said the cast spent some time learning the translations of what they were saying, and making sure they were pronouncing the words correctly.

Lacy Vance plays a post woman. Vance is from Mt. Pleasant, and one of a handful of performers who commute to rehearsal from places such as Richland, Packwood, and Van Buren County.

 

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