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The Singing Weatherman

Its composer, Keith Herrmann, received a Tony nomination for his Broadway musical "Romance/Romance." Most of its cast members, headed by Ron Holgate, have Broadway credits. Its book writer and co-lyricist Jim McGinn has extensive TV experience as writer, producer and programming executive. And its director, Bill Castellino, has a dozen or so Jefferson, Dramalogue and L.A. Weekly awards. So why is "The Singing Weatherman" such a disappointment? McGinn, who originally conceived the musical as a straight play, must take the lion's share of the blame, but everyone who collaborated with him in turning the play into a musical is also culpable. "The Singing Weatherman" appears to be trying to lampoon the inanities of locally produced TV shows at a small Midwestern station, but that's no reason why the musical itself should be so inane and old-fashioned.

With:
Cast: Ron Holgate (Charlie Gibbs), Tom Chute (Stanley Crane), O.V. Daniels (Larry/Juan), Andrea Drobish (Mary/Gina/Rose), Fay Ann Lee (May Tam), Robin Skye (Kathleen Calder), Vince Trani (Herb Taylor), Gayle Turner (Lurice Powell).

Amid its lampooning, “The Singing Weatherman” has a heart full of sloppy sentimentality. Charlie, the main character, has been the station’s “Pavarotti (or Elton John) of weathermen” for 23 years, singing his forecasts with the help of such purposely dreadful ditties as “Sunshine! Sunshine!” But he’s less devoted to his job than to booze, women and gambling. In the name of “younger demographics” the station decides to get rid of him, coming up with the ploy of taking him off the weather and forcing him to do a 6 a.m. hymn and Bible-reading show in the hope that he’ll resign. Naturally, the new show is a hit, eventually going national.

Along the way Charlie swears off all his vices, becomes positively pure, refuses to go along with a fake faith-healing stunt, and ultimately runs for state governor. It’s possible, of course, that such a storyline could result in an amusing satire, but McGinn and his cohorts lack the sophistication to do the trick.

Holgate is no great help in the title role, his acting wooden, his singing off-key. Fortunately there are talented turns by Robin Skye, Fay Ann Lee and Gayle Turner, though they have nowhere to go with their talent. The music is mostly derivative, in a variety of genres from gospel to vaudeville. It might sound better in other circumstances. Castellino’s direction and choreography are a long way from his best.

But it’s artistic director Semina De Laurentis who is ultimately responsible for this production. Her devotion to encouraging new plays and musicals is admirable, but she needs to take a far harder look at the quality of her choices if her Seven Angels Theater is to be taken seriously.

The Singing Weatherman

Waterbury, Conn.

Production: A Seven Angels Theater presentation of a musical in two acts with book by Jim McGinn, music by Keith Herrmann and lyrics by McGinn and Larry Goodsight. Directed and choreographed by Bill Castellino. Set, Robert John Andrusko

Creative: Costumes, Judith E. Davis; lighting, Peter Petrino; sound, Amy Lester; production stage manager, Rose Winters. Artistic director, Semina De Laurentis. Opened March 8, 1997, at the Hamilton Park Pavilion. Reviewed March 9; 350 seats; $25 top. Running time: 1 HOUR, 48 MIN. Musical numbers: "Sunshine! Sunshine!," "Charlie!," "His Ratings Are Down," "Springtime Blues," "Amazing Grace," "Chinese Folk Song," "Safe in Here," "All Sorts O' Services," "Early Mornin'," "They See Me on TV," "God's World," "A Long, Long, Way," "He Made the Trees," "Have You Ever."

Cast: Cast: Ron Holgate (Charlie Gibbs), Tom Chute (Stanley Crane), O.V. Daniels (Larry/Juan), Andrea Drobish (Mary/Gina/Rose), Fay Ann Lee (May Tam), Robin Skye (Kathleen Calder), Vince Trani (Herb Taylor), Gayle Turner (Lurice Powell).

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