Sarah Hodgman of Tecumseh, playing Esther Smith, leads the cast of “Meet Me in St. Louis” in “The Trolley Song,” at the Croswell Opera House in Adrian.
The holiday season is very much upon us, and what better way to kick of the yuletide season then with a musical at the Croswell. Likely to be a family favorite, “Meet Me In St. Louis,” which is adapted from the popular Judy Garland film of the same name, follows The Smith family leading up the 1904 world's fair. It’s a story of seasons, emotional ties, teenage bickering and of course, falling in love for the first time.
Adrian natives, and a slew of Croswell regulars make up the company, which was directed by Matthew D. Bowland with musical direction under Wynne Marsh. It’s a classical piece and one that’s sure to leave you smiling long after it’s over. Sarah Hodgman of Tecumseh takes on Garland’s role of Esther Smith, the second eldest daughter who is in love with the boy next door, John Truett (Justin Bayes), although he doesn’t notice her at first. Her big sister Rose (Lisa Schrock-Ohlinger), however, is expecting a phone call in which she hopes to be proposed to by Warren Sheffield (the always reliable Cordell Smith who we last saw in “Beauty and The Beast.”)
Hodgman has a great stage presence and a wonderful voice to accompany her, as does her love interest Bayes, who, with one look might not seem like he’s got this classical Fred Astaire style voice, but a quick glance at his bio details all his vocal training. He’s definitely this show's secret weapon. I also enjoyed the performance by Crosby Slupe and the youngsters in the cast (Abby Knight and Wynter Osstifin) as well as the entire ensemble who sing and dance their way eloquently from one scene to the next.
George Reasoner of Tecumseh as Grandpa, Crosby Slupe of Adrian as Lon Smith, and Abby Knight of Adrian as Agnes Smith are pictured in a scene from “Meet Me in St. Louis” at the Croswell Opera House.
Within the first couple of scenes, it feels like we’ve known these characters for decades, and Bowland does a fine job at making sure the audience can feel connected, on some level, with what the family is enduring. We all have that father figure (played here by Karl Kasischke) that is exhausted and tired coming home from work, or that zany Grandpa (George Reasoner) who thinks all of his cheesy one liners are hilarious (and with Reasoner’s delivery - they sure are).
It’s not until after the first act, where the central conflict is put forth when The Smith family finds out they’re moving to New York - which is sure to cause a ruckus, considering the oldest daughters are starting to discover what love truly feels like. Esther even drops the line “I’m going to be a senior. I’ve worked my whole life to be a senior!” Alas, some of us have been in that situation where the decisions are made for us, and this cast details those struggles and chemistry very well.
Not to mention the gorgeous score, which Marsh handles vibrantly, as does her army of veteran orchestra soldiers that deliver on the show’s expansive catalogue of iconic songs. But likely to be the talk of the production, is Michael Lackey’s outstanding set design. At the risk of not spoiling much of the surprise, let’s just say Lackey and his crew have paid the utmost attention in specifics of the 1900s. A two story house that is gorgeous to look at, and even more intoxicating once we find out how it operates. Then we have the lavish costumes, which I can imagine took many hours of hard work, and Natalie Kissinger takes the credit here in helping transport those of us in Adrian, 2017, to Missouri, 1903. Well done. And some nice looking projections designed by Becca Nowak don’t look to bad either.
As they say, “it takes a village!” and this holiday themed quartet have dutifully brought this show on it’s feet. Being a relative newbie to the confines of this narrative: the direction, staging, and real to life performances acclimated me very well to the material. If you’re looking for that fun evening, or afternoon, to take out the family - you can’t go wrong with “Meet Me In St. Louis” at the Croswell.
IF YOU GO:
“Meet Me In St Louis” continues December 1st through December 10th at The Croswell with showtimes at 7:30 p.m. (Friday and Saturday) and 2:30 p.m. (Sunday) respectively. For tickets and other info you can visit croswell.org