Asgt Resurrects 'Carnival,' But Play Remains Lifeless

On Silver Anniversary, Troupe Revives Its 1st

June 21, 1991|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing writer

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Annapolis Summer Garden Theater resurrected "Carnival," the Bob Merrill musical that was the ASGT's first musical production in 1967.

Nostalgia pervades the remake.Dick Gessner, Annapolis' own Broadway connection, was the music director of the original "Carnival" and returned this year to reprise that role.

Roger Compton, who played Paul, the romantic lead back in '67, was on hand as the wise, friendly puppeteer Jacquot this time around.

This continuity is certainly one of the factors that has made the ASGT such an important part of Annapolis' creative life over the years.

The Summer Garden Theater is deserving of many pats on he back for its quarter-century before the public.

As for the 1991 incarnation of "Carnival," well, there's talent. There's color. There's some fun. Unfortunately, there's just not much of a show.

"Carnival" may have served well as the ASGT's inaugural effort, but the inescapable conclusion is that the meager dramatic and musical resources of this piece of theater keep the production from being any more than an affectionate look backward.

This is not a distinguished musical.

The plot is slow, repetitive and boring. The score is noteworthy onlyfor its lack of noteworthy moments. The pleasantly cloying "Love Makes the World Go Round" is the only familiar tune while the rest of the songs are deservedly forgotten.

The plot? Sweet, orphaned girl comes to carnival to work. Boy puppeteer with bum leg and chip on shoulder meets girl. Boy is mean to girl. Girl cries. Puppets are nice togirl. Girl sings. Boy is mean to girl. Girl cries. Boy hits girl. Girl cries. Boy sings. Boy is mean, then nice to girl. Boy and girl hug. Love makes the world go round. The end.

Out of such gripping dramatic content is the show fashioned. The lovers' conflict between innocent Lili and anguished Paul is endlessly repetitive and just not very believable. After he cracks her across the kisser, for example, Paul segues immediately into "She's My Love."


And has Lili really not known that Paul was the affectionate voice of the puppets all along? Granted, she's no Nobel Prize-winner, but did she reallythink they talked by themselves? I mean, she was part of the act, for crying out loud.

With little of musical substance to illuminate things, "Carnival's" dramatic midway remains dark for the duration ofthe show.

There are a few side-show lights, however.

Pam Peachis suitably sweet and innocent as Lili, with her light, flirty voicesounding quite lovely when not drowned out by the accompanying tape.Her first encounter with the puppets was very well done.

Bob Patterson as Paul said his tortured lines and sang his tortured lyrics well enough, and Roger Compton was a humane, agreeable Jacquot.

Whatcomic energy there was came from Robin Chapin, as the egotistical, philandering Marco the Magnificent, and Diana Wolfe as Rosalie, his long-suffering assistant. Wolfe is always fun to watch in fussy roles, and this was no exception, although, curiously, her final song lost its energy Sunday night.

The cast looked good and functioned well as a chorus. Production numbers were colorful and appealing for the most part, though it took a clever tumbling sequence to save an interminable dance number in Act I. And one more ensemble procession from the back to the stage and I would have been tempted to leave the "Carnival" and join the circus.

All in all, this is a show for Summer Garden nostalgia buffs, but the theater-going public in general might find the pickings rather slim. The ASGT has made its share of magic over the years, but alchemy is a different story. It's always tough to make something out of nothing.

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