"A Catered Affair" (Porchlight Theatre): Mother of the Bride Captivates!

"A Catered Affair" (Porchlight Theatre):  Mother of the Bride Captivates!

#40.  Weddings are a lot of work.  Multiple variables can ruin the whole thing.  Wedding coordinators are hired to deal with the mundane and unexpected.  Their role is to keep it beautiful and special, no matter what. If they are good at their job, no one ever even knows there was an unpleasant moment. Unfortunately, marriages don’t come with a similar type facilitator option.

Porchlight Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of John Bucchino and Harvey Fierstein’s A CATERED AFFAIR.  It’s the 1950s. The war is over. Janey Hurley and Ralph Halloran are getting married.  They want to keep it simple:  courthouse, immediate family, no frills.  Their parents have different plans.  Aggie Hurley wants limousines, champagne and apricot blossoms trimming the veil and cake.  The Hallorans want a party for their closest 186 friends.  Tom Hurley just wants to buy his own cab.  When it comes to love, how much is enough?  A CATERED AFFAIR is something old, something new, something charming, something true.

Harvey Fierstein and John Bucchino took an old Bette Davis film and tuned it up.  The new play is an old-fashion love story about a boy and a girl, a husband and a wife, and parents and their child.  The plot itself isn’t surprising.  The father of the bride being a cheapskate and the mother of the bride being over-the-top indulgent are familiar stereotypes.  But cast those caricatures with Craig Spidle (Tom) and Rebecca Finnegan (Aggie) and the trite becomes solid, homespun sentimentality. Spidle stomps around the stage as a full-on curmudgeon.  It’s the glimpses of vulnerability within that gruff facade that make Spidle authentic and endearing.  In contrast, Finnegan fills the stage with emotion.  Finnegan is outstanding!  She engages with powerhouse singing.  I don’t usually buy in to frivolity at weddings.  But Finnegan is so convincingly captivating that I want what she wants.  Kelly Davis Wilson (Janey) and Jim DeSelm (Ralph) bring a youthful innocence and confidence.  Wilson and DeSelm sing about love balanced with romance and practicality.  Under the direction of Nick Bowling and musical direction of Doug Peck, the entire ensemble cackle and croon in a lovable marriage between humor and harmony.

I have some ongoing concerns about the acoustics on the main stage at Stage 773.  The audience is in a U-shape around the stage.  For this show, I’m sitting center, northeast.  The robust string-heavy orchestra is just off the stage, southeast corner.  The music is enchanting.  Unfortunately, I can’t always hear the singer if they are in the southwest corner.  It’s the dandelion in an otherwise lovely bouquet of posies.  Still, A CATERED AFFAIR serves up a scrumptious homemade slice of true love.

A man with musical envy, Shawn describes it with ‘sweet little show.’

 Running Time:  Ninety minutes and has no intermission

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont

Based on the Bette Davis film

Book by Harvey Fierstein

Music and lyrics by John Bucchino

Original orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick

Musical direction by Doug Peck

Directed by Nick Bowling

Fridays at 7:30pm

Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 2pm

Thru April 1st

Buy Tickets at www.porchlightmusictheatre.org

Photo courtesy of Brandon Dahlquist

Leave a comment