The Baker’s Wife

By - May 8th, 2007 02:52 pm
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By Tracy Doyle

Opening night of Windfall Theatre’s staging of The Baker’s Wife, I was warmly ushered into the intimate and awkward venue and the best of the remaining seating was pointed out to me. The space, which must double as a meeting room of some sort for the Village Church Arts, was perfectly suited for this cluttered musical fable, music and lyrics by Steven Schwartz and book by Joseph Stein. The play is set in a very small town, where everybody knows everybody and no one can stand anyone but themselves. The everyday grind is thrown off when the town’s sole baker dies and a replacement shows up along with his beautiful and much younger wife. A typical Schwartz musical, the songs are long and boring, never striving for anything other than ordinary and the plot follows suit.

The show opened with the sound of a man shooting himself in the foot. The first lines of “Chanson” are in French and I really wish a dialect doctor had been called because I was in pain. (Ba dum ching) But seriously, since this show started at such a low point the only way it had to go was up and it did. The lead roles of the baker and the baker’s wife, played by Larry Birkett and Linda Steiber, were beautifully constructed and developed. Both possess outstanding singing and acting abilities, which in local musical productions is a rare treat. The baker, Aimable, who struggles with the knowledge that his wife will eventually leave him, captures a real innocence and love of life that is all the more poignant she finally does leave him. Genevieve leaves Aimable for the young and charismatic Dominique, charmingly played by Thomas Rosenthal, whose lack of musical genius is made up in energy and comic timing.

Highlights of the show include a hysterical Freudian orgy of bread and song, in which long loaves of fresh bread baked by Milwaukee’s own Wild Flour Bakery are acrobatically tossed and gnawed and shared between townspeople. Musically, Genevieve’s touching “Meadowlark” stood out as an honest rendition of a woman’s struggle to figure out just what to do with her life, and reminded me of many a night singing to myself in the privacy of my own home. My favorite part of the whole night coincided with the appearance of Albus Rosenthal as Pompom, who is (SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!) the very first real live cat I’ve ever seen on stage, something I’ve been waiting for my entire life. I make an open suggestion for a new byline, Windfall Theatre: Making dreams come true. Props to Windfall for a show full of energy and performances worthy of a much better script. VS

Windfall Theatre’s Production of The Baker’s Wife runs now through May 19th at Village Church Arts. For more info, call 414-332-3963 or visit Windfall online at www.windfalltheatre.com.

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