After 56 years, a facelift for Lerner and Loewe's "Paint Your Wagon" was long overdue. With a revised book by David Rambo and new orchestrations by Steve Orich, this hopefully Broadway-bound musical is no longer disjointed and awkward.
There may yet be some tweaking for this work-in-progress but "Paint Your Wagon" has a lusty new lease on life and is rarin' to go. The original music is intact, although some songs have been shuffled into better positions in the revised plot. And most of the familiar characters are still there.
Directed by Charles Morey and choreographed by Patti D'Beck, the huge cast of nearly 30 strikes pay dirt with this lively production.
Dennis Parlato holds forth as Ben Rumson, trying to keep his miners in line while watching over his growing daughter Jennifer and still missing his deceased wife Elisa. He doesn't have a hit-the-rafters voice but his concern shines through in "I Still See Elisa," "Another Autumn" and the newly added "My Little Girl."
Emily Rabon Hall portrays the feisty Jennifer, caught between her newfound feelings for handsome Julio Valveras (a terrific role for Enrique Acevedo) and her distrust for roughneck Bull Bullnack (Mark Mineart).
Acevedo gets one of the show's best solos "I Talk to the Trees" along with a haunting duet with Jennifer, "Carino Mio."
One big change from the original is having "They Call the Wind Maria" presented as an ensemble piece instead of a showcase solo.
Another segment that was pivotal in the original Mormon miner Jacob Woodlings and his wives, Elizabeth and Sarah has completely changed. Instead of selling one of his wives to Ben, a transaction that originally took place early in Act 1, the Woodlings provide a very brief comic-relief bit toward the end of the show.
Instead of buying a wife, Ben's loneliness ends when he has a whirlwind romance with traveling actress Lily "Shakespeare" Smith (Anne Stewart Mark).
Rambo and Orich's overhauled "Wagon" is a vast improvement over the 1951 model, enhanced by Pioneer Theatre Company's usual Broadway-quality scenery, costuming, lighting and sound, along with Mearle Marsh's superb pit orchestra.
There was one jarring costuming glitch. When Julio, surprised by Jennifer when he's bathing in a hillside creek, dashes into the woods to fetch his clothes, he's clutching a stylish towel that looked more like it came from Bed Bath and Beyond than a Gold Rush mercantile store.Sensitivity rating: The miners are a lusty, hard-drinking bunch, but it's all tongue-in-cheek and not offensive, despite Preacher McNulty's excitement over the "mother lode" of sin when the Fandango Dancers arrive in town.
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