After a slow start, the new musical comedy “South Street,” making its world premiere at the Pasadena Playhouse, sparkled despite needing just a little more polish at its opening Sunday,For those unfamiliar with Philadelphia, South Street became a live local music scene, eventually transforming into a tourist attraction in the 1980s. Richard Addrisi (music and lyrics) and Craig Carlisle (book) take us to Sammy’s Place on South Street in 1997, when owner/manager Cloe (Maria Eberline) is preparing for the annual Full Moon Festival dance contest.
The previous owner, Sammy (Tom Shelton), recently died, but his widow Sybil (Valerie Perri) returns to help out. The festivities are threatened when two loutish brothers (Jim Holdridge and Benjamin Goldsmith) reveal that Sammy owed their father lots of money and that they intend to take over the place.
Flashing back to 1980, we see an orphaned Cloe and her young brother Norton (played by Andy Scott Harris as a child and Matthew Patrick Davis as an adult) arriving at the bar looking for their show-biz aunt. They learn she was an exotic dancer and left no forwarding address. Cloe becomes a pole dancer at Sammy’s and Sammy and Sybil become her surrogate parents.
Cloe falls in love with a young musician Johnny (Brent Schindele), but when he leaves to tour with a famous band, she hides her pregnancy and refuses all his calls.
Of course, Cloe and Johnny will end up together and the two brothers will somehow be foiled: Sammy’s Place will be saved. That’s a given. It’s how we get there that’s important.
The first act is a little slow, but the second act picks things up, featuring some fun dance choreography by Dana Solimando. Director Roger Castellano is also a choreographer, and this show really shines when the dancing is showcased. Kate Bergh’s costume design is also superb, perfectly capturing the dress of the two eras.
While this show is a predictable, chirpy love story and needs a little tweaking, the production, singing, dancing and acting are all high caliber.
“South Street” continues until Oct. 16 at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit pasadenaplayhouse.org
or call (626) 356-7529.
Originally published in the Pasadena Weekly