The world premier of “Lighthouse” has completed its first triumphal weekend at the Waldo Theater before large and appreciative audiences. The book by John Chandler and music by Robert Richardson describe the conversion of the last manned lighthouse in Maine to automation, focusing on the islander’s trauma which that entailed.
The story is a bit schmaltzy, but comfortably so. It soothes that the setting is so local, much as in the case of “Carousel.” (I personally wish that the lighthouse had not been placed on Outer Heron Island which, as everyone knows, has never had a lighthouse much less a population. I am told, however, that it is a “different” Outer Heron. OK!) At times the scene changes seem a bit sudden and the set changes (and the set is spectacular) a bit awkward, and there are moments which are decidedly “community theater.” But hey, who cares? It’s easy to snark, particularly at a world premier which is necessarily a work in progress. The important thing is that the stage fairly throbs with enthusiasm. Energy envelops not just the cast (from the wriggling youngsters to the grizzled lobstermen) and the orchestra (so splendidly led by maestro Fleming) but the audience as well. The attendees, many visiting the Waldo for the first time, obviously enjoyed this show. I have a feeling that somewhere the spirit of the historic Waldo Theater is also smiling.
The music, and there is lots, was a surprise to me. I had not expected anything so good, essentially the quality of Rogers and Hammerstein which it often resembles. The singing is exceptional for community theater. In her first song Megan (Devin Dukes) seemed a little too polished (e.g. Ezio Pinza in “South Pacific” or Helen Traubel in “Pipe Dream,”) but either she mellowed or I became more enthralled in the story because I thoroughly enjoyed her other songs, especially the duets with Thornton (Cotey Green). Unfair as it may be I would single out for special praise Aaron Clark (Captain Grover), Joel Horne (Merle Grover) and Andy Barber (Senator Dumphrey). But that’s enough for the names, everyone should be proud of his/her performance.
I have no idea how Ruth Monsell managed to round up such a far-flung and able cast and crew, but kudos to her. Bringing this show together was obviously a huge task. A special nod to Julia Plumb for fine choreography; the dance numbers are delightful. And thumbs up to the set crew, especially for the schooner’s proud bowsprit. What fun!
One more weekend; I heartily encourage attendance. You might consider reserving at the Waldo either on line www.theWaldo.org; by phone 832-6060; or at the Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta. I have a feeling the tickets may sell out. This is a very good show.
- Kit Hayden