Book: Marc Acito
Music: Amy Engelhardt
Lyrics: Marc Acito & Amy Engelhardt
Writer: Henry Fielding
Director: Marc Acito
Reviewer: Robert Price
Tom Jones is a sex symbol of 1749, and the star of one of the first (and funniest) novels ever written, The History of Tom Jones. In the new musical adaptation, the lights come up on Tom and Molly in the throes of passionate love-making. She is a commoner; his guardian is the town squire, who found him on a doorstep as an infant. Though Tom was raised by a respectable family, he is still a bastard, and fraternizes (and sympathizes) with the low-born.
Evan Ruggiero stars as Tom, philandering yet compassionate, a rockstar in a denim jacket and a patterned shirt. Ruggiero is an amputee and plays the part sans right leg. His vintage-looking peg offers countless opportunities for innovative staging, and Marc Acito does a great job of bringing every cast member’s uniqueness forward. Elena Wang delivers a flawless vocal performance as Sophia, the childhood friend that has captured Tom’s heart, making strong comic choices throughout. Her belting ode to her new Tingle is contrasted with Crystal Lucas-Perry’s sultry alto in Have Another Oyster Dear as Lady Bellaston. Lucas-Perry commands our attention as a dominant sexual force. Amy Engelhardt’s music is tastefully varied, making bold choices even in comedic numbers. The lyrics seem to inject adrenaline into the satire of yesteryear, adding a little modern obscenity to keep things fresh.
Acito’s book and staging make the show a true ensemble effort. A few props and set pieces serve for horses, gallows, beds, and more beds. This remarkable cast makes it difficult to imagine the parts being played by anyone else. Cheryl Stern is hysterical in several dialects, shining in every punch line and even farting beautifully. We hear a piercing head voice from Matthew McGloin who is graceful and shirtless at one point. Adam B. Shapiro was born to play a hypocritical Baritone reverend and Rene Ruiz shines as Partridge, the evening’s emcee and resident vaudevillian. Alie B. Gorie plays Molly and Mrs. Fitzpatrick so well that one may not recognize that it is the same actor (or, for that matter, that she is legally blind).
Everyone gets a chance to show off their vocal range and get a little bit naughty. Even Tony Perry’s heavenly tenor as Squire Allworthy is challenged by his grating drag falsetto and false breasts as Nanny’s Loony Mum. This adaptation highlights the joy of sexuality, and leads by example with a talented, diverse cast.
Runs until 14 July 2017