Review: MAMBO ITALIANO at Westchester Broadway Theatre

The musical is based upon the 2003 Canadian comedy-drama independent film directed by Émile Gaudreault.

Published: Sunday, August 25, 2019 By: Nancy Sasso Janis Source: THE PATCH

(EXCERPTS)

For their 212th production, the Westchester Broadway Theatre has launched the world premiere of MAMBO ITALIANO, a musical version of the 2003 Canadian comedy-drama independent film directed by Émile Gaudreault. The screenplay was written by Mr. Gaudreault and Steve Galluccio, based on Mr. Galluccio's theatrical play by the same name. Both the play and the film are based on Galluccio's own life and experiences of growing up in Canada with his family of (very) Italian immigrants. Gallucio's other writing credits include the film Surviving My Mother and the Canadian TV series Ciao Bella.

The musical version, now set in New Jersey in the year 2000, tells the story of Angelo Barberini, now the "oddball" grandson of Italian immigrants, who shocks his purportedly "eccentric" grandparents Gino and Maria by moving out without getting married and then revealing that he is gay at the end of the first act,

The book for the musical version was written by Jean Cheever (DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS) and Tom Polun (THE TOXIC AVENGER.) Mr. Polun also directed the WBT production. They brought in composer James Olmstead (who will be the associate MD for the upcoming ONCE UPON A ONE MORE TIME) to write the musical numbers and Omri Schein to provide the lyrics, which were often clunky to my ear. I did like the year 2000 references like Judge Judy and McD's that I managed to catch.

Joy Hermalyn (FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, NBC's Sound of Music LIVE!) made the most of her role as the Catholic grandmother Maria Barbieri, who cooks the Italian food for Famiglia Italiana Ristorante and fiercely guards her own famiglia. Bill Note, who starred as Tevye in FIDDLER at WBT and won a Connecticut Critic Circle Award for his role as Tony in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA at Goodspeed, played the role of her husband Gino and I wished he had more to do. I loved everything about Alexandra Amadeo Frost's performance as Anna; she lit up the stage whenever she was on it.

Alex Drost sang and danced beautifully as Angelo in his WBT debut. Diana DiMarzio did the best she could with the role of the awful Lina, the manipulating mother of Nino. The police officer and childhood friend of Angelo was played well by Zach Schanne, who won a CCC Award for his role as Tony in WEST SIDE STORY. Adinah Alexander (original cast of KINKY BOOTS, WEDDING SINGER, WICKED) was a bright spot as Rosa Donelli. Stuart Marland (NEWSIES, PHANTOM at WBT) played a stereotypical Irish priest Father O'Shea and a blubbering judge. In the ensemble were Aaron Patrick Craven, AJ Hunsucker (who was the Mario Lanza-inspired court clerk,) Corey Joseph Masklee (PHANTOM,) Halle Mastoberardino, Mackenzie Rogers and Laura Stracko. These talented actor/dancers played psychiatrists, waiters, bartenders, dancers, tough guys, construction workers, Italian peasants, and minor characters.

Kudos to Ryan Edward Wise, the music director who also covered keyboard 1 and sat with the associate conductor Bob Bray (on keyboard 2) and six other musicians in the offstage pit, who had their photo displayed at curtain call. Keith Nielsen did good work on the costumes in his eighth WBT show; as always the wigs were inspired, even the one for the big-haired character Donna. 

In keeping with the Italian theme of the show, the chef added two Italian dishes to the menu, a filling eggplant parmesan and Gino's lasagna with meat sauce as the show special. My young companion enjoyed his roast prime rib of beef, as he always does. The regular salad was replaced with a Caesar Salad with croutons and shaved Grana cheese and appetizers for an additional charge included cold antipasti, mozzarella and tomato, and fried calamari.