×

Dandelion Wine

There's a good reason to see "Dandelion Wine," a musicalization of Ray Bradbury's novel currently being revived at the Colony Theater Co., and his name is Matt Raftery. Raftery, featured in Broadway's "Beauty and the Beast," has so much electricity and charm in the pivotal role that he distracts you from flaws in Jeffrey Rockwell's score and Bradbury's book. The show's basic stumbling point is a story devoid of drama and tension.

With:
Bill Forrester - David Carey Foster Douglas Spaulding - Matt Raftery Father - Lon Huber Tom Spaulding - Glenn Irey Colonel Freeleigh - Robert O'Reilly Miss Fern - Judy Walstrum Miss Roberta - Peggy Billo John Huff - Philip Watt Leo Auffman - D. Ewing Woodruff Lena Auffman - Eileen T'Kaye Mr. Sanderson - Whitney Rydbeck Ann Barclay - Barbara Passolt

This review was corrected on September 5, 2000.

There’s a good reason to see “Dandelion Wine,” a musicalization of Ray Bradbury’s novel currently being revived at the Colony Theater Co., and his name is Matt Raftery. Raftery, featured in Broadway’s “Beauty and the Beast,” has so much electricity and charm in the pivotal role that he distracts you from flaws in Jeffrey Rockwell’s score and Bradbury’s book. The show’s basic stumbling point is a story devoid of drama and tension.

Set in Illinois during the summer of 1928, “Dandelion Wine” concentrates on 16-year-old Douglas (Raftery), a young man bursting with optimism about the vacation ahead. We see him interact amiably with best friend John (Philip Watt), shoe salesman Mr. Sanderson (Whitney Rydbeck), arcade owner Leo (D. Ewing Woodruff) and a 99-year-old colonel (Robert O’ Reilly).

Douglas is an updated Tom Sawyer, but he’s too wholesome; like Mark Twain’s hero, he needs a streak of adolescent rebellion. It would also help to see him pitted against strong opponents, like a possessive Aunt Polly or a murderous Injun Joe.

The first hint of a dark cloud on this utopian landscape occurs when a stranger, Bill Forrester (David Carey Foster) arrives and boards at Douglas’ home. He asks Douglas to show him the city, and we suspect hidden motives, but director Terrence Shank is so subtle in developing the mystery that we feel no involvement or jeopardy.

Only at the end, when the plot takes a sudden turn, does “Dandelion Wine” give evidence of the forceful drama it might have been. We realize belatedly that Bradbury’s script contains all the setups, but the payoffs are muted by excessively polite music and direction that fails to stir up vitally needed suspense.

Aside from too many characters and a sprawling, unfocused plotline, Rockwell’s music (which replaced the 1981 score by Billy Goldenberg and Larry Alexander) is a major problem. Rockwell’s lyrics comment on situations without dramatizing them. Characters sing about internal feelings but have no direct, passionate confrontations. The melodies are dissonant when they should be tuneful, and the lyrics, while picturesque, settle for pastoral cliches. “Paralitefoot Tennis Shoes” is one notable exception, a delightful number in which Douglas tries on a pair of shoes and dances with youthful abandon.

Throughout the production, Raftery displays agility as a dancer, aided by Brian Frette’s sprightly choreography. Judy Walstrum is lovable and funny as Miss Fern, an eccentric lady with premonitions of danger, and O’Reilly brings authority to the part of the elderly colonel. Foster, in the enigmatic role of the stranger, is too solemn and low key.

The Colony’s new quarters in Burbank provide an appropriately intimate setting for the show, and Richard Berent’s band (with finely detailed orchestrations by James Vukovich) does well by the material. John Patrick’s scenic design and A. Jeffrey Schoenberg’s costumes effectively project the flavor of a 20th century town, and D. Sylvio Volonte’s lighting gives the show continuous visual interest.

Dandelion Wine

The Colony Theater; 99 seats; $28 top

Production: A Colony Theater presentation of a musical in two acts with book by Ray Bradbury and music and lyrics by Jeffrey Rockwell. Directed by Terrence Shank. Producer, Barbara Beckley.

Creative: Musical director, Richard Berent; choreography, Brian Frette; sets, John Patrick; lighting, D. Sylvio Volonte; sound, Michael Fracassi; costumes, A. Jeffrey Schoenberg. Opened, reviewed Aug. 26, 2000; closes Dec. 10. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Bill Forrester - David Carey Foster Douglas Spaulding - Matt Raftery Father - Lon Huber Tom Spaulding - Glenn Irey Colonel Freeleigh - Robert O'Reilly Miss Fern - Judy Walstrum Miss Roberta - Peggy Billo John Huff - Philip Watt Leo Auffman - D. Ewing Woodruff Lena Auffman - Eileen T'Kaye Mr. Sanderson - Whitney Rydbeck Ann Barclay - Barbara PassoltWith: David Jahn, Molly Beck, J. Michael Wright, Isaac F. Katzanek, Robert Stephen Ryan, Devon Reeves, Jonathan Byram, Brian Cordoba, Gil Hackel, Tom Dugan, Patricia Cullen.

More Legit

  • The Play That Goes Wrong review

    BBC Orders Comedy Series Based on ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

    The BBC has greenlit “The Goes Wrong Show,” a new series based on Mischief Theatre’s popular “The Play That Goes Wrong” stage production about a troupe that puts on disastrous plays. The stage show has transferred from London’s West End to Broadway for a J.J. Abrams-produced version described by Variety as “a broad, silly and [...]

  • By the Way Meet Vera Stark

    Off Broadway Review: 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' by Lynn Nottage

    After writing two harrowing Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, “Sweat” and “Ruined,” Lynn Nottage is entitled to have a little fun. But while this revival of her new play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” walks and talks like a screwball comedy, it has a real brain in its head. Before we get too serious, let’s meet [...]

  • Merrily We Roll AlongRoundabout Theatre CompanyMERRILY

    Off Broadway Review: 'Merrily We Roll Along'

    Like the optimistic youths at the end — or is it the beginning? — of “Merrily We Roll Along,” creatives keep going back to this problematic Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical, re-imagining the show in the hope that the end results will be different this time around. They’re not. But disappointments are often off-set by new [...]

  • My Fair Lady Laura Benanti

    Listen: Laura Benanti on 'My Fair Lady' and the Secret to Her Melania Trump Impersonation

    Laura Benanti is now playing her dream role on Broadway. At the same time, the Tony winner (“Gypsy”) is also playing her toughest part ever. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “It’s the most demanding part I think I’ll probably play,” said Benanti, now appearing as Eliza Doolittle in Lincoln Center Theater’s well-received revival of [...]

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content