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Westfield Community Players

1000 North Avenue West
Westfield, NJ 07090 USA
Web: Avg. Member Rating:5.00/5
Organization Type:
Last Updated:
Oct 31,2010 by Steve Lemenille
Westfield Community Players - WESTFIELD COMMUNITY PLAYERS (WCP), founded in 1934, has brought more than 200 comedies, dramas, musicals and mysteries to life on our stage. All productions are presen... more

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    Past Events

05/02/09 - 05/30/09 Little Mary Sunshine Event
06/13/09 - 06/12/09 Kenny Woods Event
10/03/09 - 10/24/09 "Don't Drink the Water" Event
01/09/10 - 01/23/10 "The Second Time Around" Event
03/06/10 - 03/27/10 "Dial M for Murder" Event
05/08/10 - 05/22/10 "Caught in the Net" Event
07/17/12 - 07/17/12 The Fox on the Fairway Audition
07/17/12 - 07/17/12 Audition Notice for Audition

Average Rating: 5.00/5
  Steve Lemenille - May 14,2009 12:14pm

[From the Westfield Leader, May 14, 2009]

Rollicking Allusions to Distant Theatrical Past Help WCP ‘Shine’
By SUSAN MYRILL DOUGHERTY Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The /Times

WESTFIELD – In less-capable hands, Little Mary Sunshine, Rick Besoyan’s spoof of musicals and operettas of the 1930s and 1940s, could be deadly. But Westfield Community Players production shines in the hands of veteran producer Kay Macrae, talented actress/vocalist Drude Roessler as director, choreographer Maury Herman, who returns to choreography after a 10-year hiatus, and Larry Rothweiler serving as musical director/pianist. Combined, the team has more than a century’s worth of experience.

That expertise salvages a weak script to turn it into an evening that showcases strong voices, lively dancing and some good-old-fashioned silliness.

In true melodrama fashion, there’s a mortgage to pay, a time limit that is running out, a black-hearted villain and a handsome hero to save a damsel in distress. In this musical specifically, however, the setting is not railroad tracks with a dastardly villain twirling his dark moustache as a speeding locomotive bears down on the rope-entwined lovely heroine.

Set in the turn-of-the 20th century at Mary’s Colorado Inn, on a stage designed by Bill McMeekan, the scene is complete with a snowcapped mountain range in the background and teepee and birch trees in the foreground. Originally, the show was a 1959 Off-Broadway production presented as an affectionate jab at operettas and old-fashioned musicals of Victor Herbert, Rudolf Friml and Sigmund Romberg.

With tongue-in-cheek, it alludes to shows of Gilbert and Sullivan, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jerome Kern and Noel Coward.

Despite missing one mortgage payment, heroine Mary, ever the cockeyed optimist, sings “Look for the Sky of Blue.” Mr. Herman’s campy choreography with a syncopated skyward movement replicates the overdone gestures rampant in the operettas of the 1930s.

Handsome hero Captain “Big Jim” Warington (John Schweska) leads the Forest Rangers – a parody of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police right down to their spectacular crimson jackets and mud-brown wide-brimmed hats.

The captain and his trusty men have been sent to Colorado to capture a reputed renegade Indian, Yellow Feather (Gregg Mele). The captain sings, quite robustly, rallying songs that are similar to “Stout-hearted Men” from the operetta The New Moon.

Mary Potts (Jennifer Bacigalupi), known by all as Little Mary Sunshine, was nicknamed by her foster father, Chief Brown Bear (Joe Rodriguez), who is one of two remaining members from the fictitious Indian tribe of Katoda.

Brava to Ms. Bacigalupi, who possesses a spectacularly grand coloratura voice that blows the roof off of the small theater. She’s the quintessential Mary – from her creamy, glowing skin, rubytinged lips, bowed hair ribbons and perfectly posed, gloved hand gestures.

Madame Ernestine von Liebedich (Arlene Britt), a famous opera singer guest at the inn, sports a name that is a play on Edward Grieg’s classic melody, “Ich Liebe Dich” (translated: “I Love You.”) In the role, Ms. Britt reveals her unflagging comic side and a handsome, professional singing and speaking voice.

Nancy Twinkle (Debbie Barr) and Corporal “Billy” Jester (A.J. Meeker) are a dating couple whose intense jealousy is the bubbling volcano threatening their relationship.

Reminiscent of the Ado Annie and Will Parker duo in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, Ms. Barr, in a French maid’s costume no less, is a scene-stealer merely by batting her eyelashes, striking a pose and then delivering some of the best lines in the show. Her distinctive, Broadway belting voice is a delightful bonus. Mr. Meeker’s acting ability and comic timing help to sell his best song, “I’m a Heap Big Injun.”

The taciturn, wise, father figure Chief Brown Bear, portrayed nicely by Mr. Rodriguez, is a double for the Chief Sitting Bull character from Irving Berlin’s musical Annie Get Your Gun. In the cleverly staged bedroom scene with the young giggling debutantes, a parody of the sisters in Pirates of Penzance, the girls get their chance to shine vocally along with Ms. Barr.

Steve Lemenille plays General Oscar Fairfax to tee with his wool knickers,jaunty cap and dapper bowtie. As the dirty old man of the play, he has a ball in “Say Uncle.”

Little Mary Sunshine reflects not only a simpler time, but also an optimistic quality served up with white gloves, tea and cucumber sandwiches.

  Steve Lemenille - May 14,2009 11:55am

Little Mary Sunshine review (as posted on

Having reviewed many a community theater production over the past 37 years, it was a thrill to have seen Westfield Community Players production of Little Mary Sunshine.

It is such a sweet, nostalgic play that too often it is not done enough. Westfield Community Players should be proud of this production.

Under the direction of Drude Roessler, the essence of this charming play was delightfully captured without flaw. The choreography under the direction of Maury Herman was right on point and poignant to the numbers they were associated with. Larry Rothweiler, the musical director was able to form the voices into a true harmonius effect.

Individually, the cast was superb. John Schweska was appropriately cast as Capt. Jim Warrington (The Dudley Doo Right) of the show. He handled it charmingly and his character came through convincingly.

Jennifer Bacigalupi, who played Little Mary, was so picturesque in her part. She was delightful and captured the wholesome spirit of Little Mary Sunshine. Her voice was absolutely lyrical and colorful.

Debbie Barr as Nancy Twinkle was divine. Her portrayal was the epitome of Ado Annie in Oklahoma. Her rendition of Mata Hari was indeed a showstopper.

A.J. Meeker who played Cpl. Jester was very well suited for the role. He gave that soft, naive approach to the character that was well-intended.

Arlene Britt who played Madame Liebedich gave such of beautiful performance that it's hard to believe she is not a professional singer/actress. She was so convincing with her German dialect and operatic voice.

The highlight of the evening for this reviewer had to be General Oscar Fairfax portrayed by Steve Lemenille. Such a delight to see his manipulation of the role of "the old womanizer" with the Girls of the Eastchester Finishing School. He delivered such a comedic portrayal of the role to a tee. But when he sang his "Uncle" number that was the showstopper. Such a delight. What impressed this reviewer was the duet between he and Arlene Britt with the Vienna song. Their harmony and appeal to each other came across so brilliantly. And the versatility of hearing him singing "Uncle" and then hearing his more seriousness with "Vienna" goes to the heart of his talent. Great casting.

The Forest Rangers who were portrayed by Jeff Woerner, Claudio Venancio, Travis Catrone and Christopher Murphy were simply impressive in their uniforms. Their harmonies were spot on, as well as, their precision marching routines. Their interaction with the Eastchester Finishing School Ladies enhanced the show fully.

The delight of this production was evidenced by the wonderful voices of the Eastchester Finishing Schools ladies, so amply played by Andrea Barra as Cora, Rebecca Dias as Maud, Amanda Beyfuss as Henrietta and MaryJane Ajodah. Everytime they were on stage, they exemplified fun, enjoyment and charm. Their voices were beautiful beyond this reviewers original thoughts. These girls were brilliant.

The role of Chief Brown Bear was so well played by Joe Rodriguez who gave such a meaningful portrayal. While the part of Fleet Foot was amazingly cute and funny played by Garry Tamburro, It was as if the part was written for him.

Although only a small part, the role of Yellow Feather, who is suppose to be the villain of the show, according to the introductory announcement, was extremely were done by Gregg Mele. He gave just enough hint of his meanness to make the scene between he and Little Mary very effective.

The fight between Capt. Warrington (John Schweska) and Yellow Feather was well choreographed to be truly believable.

Surprisingly well-choreographed, but not truly understood by the audience, was the "Shell Game" dance featuring A.J. Meeker (Cpl. Jester), Debbie Barr (Nancy Twinkle) and Yellow Feather (Gregg Mele). This reviewer was immensely impressed by the choreography and the execution by the actors.

It was very surprising to see how effective the set for the show was carried out. For the size of Westfield Community Players stage to have created a set so practical, so well-decorated, and so well-organized was pure genius. If there were any constructive criticisms to be mentioned, it would have been some of the lighting was a bit too bright. However, it is not meant to diminish the performance in any way. Since it is a small, rather intimate stage, perhaps "full-up" lighting should be minimal.

The costumes were strikingly awesome. The Forest Rangers in their bright red uniforms gave them full attention by the audience. The gorgeous gowns worn by Jennifer Bacigalupi, and the four girls were so well shown, it was remarkable and so well-suited.

If you haven't seen this show, this reviewer would urge you to see it. This production should not be missed if you truly enjoy excellent theater and a tremendous evening of wholesome entertainment.

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Westfield Community Players

Brook-Glen Gober

Steve Lemenille
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