(Cover Photo: The CAST of the musical "SOUP DU JOUR" presented by Pasture Prime Players in Charlton, MA. now playing through May 21, 2023. Photo Credit Victoria Konopacki)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
“A fight is the perfect thing to see the night before your wedding. You can pick up a few pointers."
- Todd Mueller and Hank Boland
Music and Lyrics by Gregg Opelka
Book by Todd Mueller and Hank Boland
Directed by Lynn Boucher
Producer Don Konopacki
Music Accompaniment by Central Mass Music Academy
Choreographer Valerie Langlais
Cast Includes: Peter Amaral - Stewart Bailey; Erin Simpson - Katherine Hawks; Don Konopacki - Franklin O'Shea; Victoria Konopacki - Tiffany Vandervanden; Deborah Hollett - Shelly DeCoco; Eric Hart - J.P. Thompson.
Additional Creative Team:
Stage Manager - Morgan Caseday; Stage Hand - Abigayle Simpson; Costuming - Lynn Boucher & Victoria Konopacki; Set Design - Lynn Boucher & Don Konopacki; Set Construction - Stephen Jean & Don Konopacki; Lighting and Sound Design - Eric Hart; Lighting and Sound Operator - Valerie Langlais; Set Painting - Lynn Boucher & Simone Germain; Program and Graphic Design - Don Konopacki; Photography - Victoria Konopacki.
May 12, 13, 19 & 20, 2023 at 7:30pm
May 14 & 21, 2023 at 2:00pm
Performances to be held at Pasture Prime Players, 4 Dresser Hill Road, Charlton, MA.
Tickets are $20 per adult, $16 per senior or child. Reservations may be made by calling # 508-248-5448.
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Pasture Prime Players returns with a smorgasbord of shenanigans in the off center but exuberant musical, "SOUP DU JOUR" which concludes a two week run May 21st.
In New York City, 1939, Katharine (Erin Simpson), a Pulitzer Prize-winning ace reporter, agrees to go undercover at a restaurant (famous for its secret "SOUP DU JOUR" recipe) to help increase circulation for her struggling newspaper.
At the restaurant, Stewart (Peter Amaral) is mourning the death of his father and preparing for his imminent wedding to Tiffany (Victoria Konopacki).
While Kate pretends to be a waitress for Stewart, who is aided by his father's long-time friend, Frank (Don Konopacki), who is also like a second father to Stewart, Kate falls for Stewart.
Konopacki as Frank provides a compassionate shoulder on which Stewart can lean, especially as events unfold and Stewart begins to see his whole life crumble around him.
Everyone searches the restaurant for the missing recipe but events soon spiral out of control, especially for Stewart and Kate.
Don't look for any deep meaning, multiple "layers" or an existential plot to this one. It is very much like watching an old black and white "rom-com" movie.
The plot is closer to smores than soup here as there is enough marshmallow "fluff" provided that the only things missing are the chocolate and graham cracker.
However, thanks to the capable direction of Lynn Boucher and execution by her cast, if you enjoy the charm of those very old "rom-coms," the appeal of Todd Mueller and Hank Boland's "SOUP DU JOUR" story is intentional and unmistakable.
(Photo: Donald Konopacki as "Franklin O'Shea," Erin Simpson as "Katherine Hawks" and Peter Amaral as "Stewart Bailey" share a toast in a scene from the musical "SOUP DU JOUR" presented by Pasture Prime Players in Charlton, MA. now playing through May 21, 2023. Photo Credit Victoria Konopacki)
The story is quite solid, although it probably works far better as a play than as a musical.
Where the script succeeds is in the capturing of the time period and the "feel" of those old-time movies, especially those with a lot of quick-witted "snappy patter" taking place between the characters.
If book writers Todd Mueller and Hank Boland had just left it at that, the show works quite nicely. It is the addition of the trite Opelka score that proves lacking, although the lyrics for the songs are exceptionally clever.
The love story that evolves between the characters of Kate and Stewart comes across as genuine thanks to the adept performances by Erin Simpson and Peter Amaral.
The story's antagonists that push the limits of overtly obnoxious behavior are (for Kate) a competing columnist, Shelly (Deborah Hollett) and (for Stewart...and everybody else) a volatile...no, "velociraptic"..."Bridezilla" named Tiffany (Victoria Konopacki).
Both of the above actresses provide some of the biggest laughs in the show.
Eric Hart as Thompson, the stressed out publisher, initially comes across as sincere but soon reveals some nefarious intentions later in the play. A very nice performance.
(Photo: Eric Hart as "J.P. Thompson" and Erin Simpson as "Katherine Hawks" in a scene from the musical "SOUP DU JOUR" presented by Pasture Prime Players in Charlton, MA. now playing through May 21, 2023. Photo Credit Victoria Konopacki)
The six-person cast works hard to faithfully execute the score but it is much of the score that lets down the cast, with a few pleasantly surprising exceptions:
Peter Amaral and Don Konopacki as Stewart and Franklin share a delightfully funny second act number, "What Women Get Ya" which keeps tongue firmly in cheek for the partners.
As Kate, Erin Simpson is given a few pleasant numbers, including the show's opener, "Katherine Hawks, the Foreign Correspondent," and the more somber "Write the Story."
Don Konopacki is assigned to what is probably the best number in the score, "Look Behind the Face," leading to a hugely clever revelation in the second act.
(Photo: The CAST of the musical "SOUP DU JOUR" presented by Pasture Prime Players in Charlton, MA. now playing through May 21, 2023. Photo Credit Victoria Konopacki)
The set design by Lynn Boucher and Don Konopacki provides the perfect ambience for the time period of the show, complete with a very precise use of "antiques" on set. A nice attention to detail, right down to the typewriter, plates and other props on hand.
All costumes are equally sublime, minus one character's thoroughly grotesque fox fur stole with legs "dangling" off of it and, for another character, a pair of totally uncooperative suspenders (equally "dangling" as well).
The women's assorted hairstyles/wigs were outstanding.
Both the Overture and Entr'acte were cut for time but does not impact the overall run of the show.
Pasture Prime Players' "SOUP DU JOUR" concludes May 21st at 2:00pm in Charlton and it is certainly a welcome return.
Approximately two hours, 10 minutes with one intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
In "SOUP DU JOUR" it is New York City, 1939.
There's a mystery at Bailey's restaurant, one of Gotham's top dining establishments, and it's up to Katharine Hawks, the New York Herald-Tribune's Pulitzer Prize-winning ace reporter, to solve it!
J. P. Thompson, editor of the struggling Herald-Tribune is desperately searching for a way to increase circulation.
Across town, Stewart Bailey is simultaneously mourning the death of his father and preparing for his imminent wedding to socialite golddigger Tiffany Vandervanden.
Stewart has just inherited his father's restaurant, the success of which was built on its famous soup du jour.
There's only one catch: Stewart's father took the recipe with him to the grave, and Stewart—along with everyone else in the story—winds up searching wildly for the missing recipe.
Editor Thompson decides he, too, must have the secret recipe to solve his paper's circulation problems.
Enter Katharine Hawks to save the day. Sent undercover as a waitress to Bailey's restaurant to find the recipe for the famed soup, Katharine winds up losing her heart to Stewart Bailey.
Once she learns Stewart has lost the recipe, Katharine is in a real dilemma: Career or love?
Winning songs, lightning-fast dialogue in the Tracy-Hepburn tradition, and a great plot are the delicious ingredients of this delightful tribute to 1930s screwball comedies.
ABOUT PASTURE PRIME PLAYERS
PASTURE PRIME PLAYERS INC. is a volunteer regional theater organization based in Charlton and made up of a group of people from surrounding towns, who love the theater and the feeling of shared creativity experienced while taking part in a live stage production. It is the intent of the PASTURE PRIME PLAYERS to encourage the development of community theater in Southern Worcester County, to stage live theater performances for residents of the region, and to provide opportunities for everyone, especially amateurs and newcomers, in all aspects of stage production, be it lighting, advertising, set design, acting, music, financial management, design and publishing of programs, or any of the many tasks necessary for the successful production of plays.
PASTURE PRIME PLAYERS