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Theatre Review (LA): Fanny at the Alex Theatre

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Musical Theatre Guild continues in their stated mission of presenting seldom-seen musicals. Fanny, with music and lyrics by Harold Rome and a book by S.N. Behrman and Joshua Logan, is just that, an old chestnut. It opened in New York in 1954 with Florence Henderson as Fanny and Ezio Pinza in the leading roles. It ran 888 performances thanks to Rome’s lush score.

Fanny is based on Marcel Pagnol’s trilogy of plays (Fanny, Marius, and Cesar). It is a bittersweet tale of a pair of star-crossed lovers on the waterfront of Marseilles. Fanny wants Marius but Marius wants a life at sea. Fanny becomes pregnant with his child after one night of love but he doesn’t find out until he returns from the sea, disillusioned with the life and regretting not staying with Fanny. Meanwhile Fanny marries Panisse, a jolly and kindly friend of Marius’ father Cesar. Panisse knows the child isn’t his but has always wanted a son. When Marius returns, the story takes a tragic turn.

As is customary with these staged readings at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, the actors get only 25 hours of rehearsal. This is difficult with a normal score but Fanny is more like an operetta and requires wonderful trained voices. Musical Theatre Guild is deep in talent so they were able to cast the show with relative ease. Jennifer Shelton played Fanny, perhaps not as demurely as I would have imagined the role (Leslie Caron in the movie but that version didn’t have the music except as background). Dan Calloway was near-perfect as Marius with his glorious tenor voice reaching the heights of the theatre. Michael G. Hawkins played the Pinza part of Cesar, Marius’ randy father, and Roy Leake Jr. was simply superb as Panisse.

Fanny was directed by Larry Rabin and Daniel Thomas was the musical director. Both get good work from this cast. Fanny played at the Alex Theatre.

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