DO BLACK PATENT LEATHER SHOES REALLY REFLECT UP?

by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
“DO BLACK PATENT LEATHER SHOES REALLY REFLECT UP?” opened at the Limelight Theatre, and will run through June 30th at 11 Old Mission Avenue in downtown St. Augustine. For information call (904) 825-1164 or visit limelight-theatre.org.
Although “Shoes” was not considered sophisticated enough for commendation by New York critics and had only a very short run on Broadway in 1982, it ran for over four years in Chicago and had two long runs in Philadelphia. It has been a favorite of community, regional, and dinner theatres over the years and in fact has been done at least three times we know of in the North Florida area. Award winning actor and director DEL AUSTIN has previous directed this play and as can be seen in Limelight’s current production, has a keen eye for the marvelous nuances of this comedy.
This musical, with its unusual name, is set in Chicago in the 1950s, and follows eight children from their start in elementary school to beyond the senior prom. It presents the rigid rules of 1950’s Catholicism in comedic form , but you certainly don’t need to be a Catholic or know anything about Catholic school traditions to enjoy this show. Act One, with the eight students initially dressed and acting like six or seven year olds, sets the tone. Musical numbers are mixed in to illustrate the trials and tribulations of young students, some universal, some unique to the setting, and we move up with them to Eighth Grade Graduation.
In Act Two the show becomes more engrossing as it is focused on dating, high school events, and sex education. We learn that the girls in their short skirts must be careful as patent leather shoes reflect up , so underwear must be worn at all times. Also, pearls reflect down and are to be avoided in the interest of protecting others from impure thoughts.
The show, while episodic, focuses on two central characters. Eddie Ryan is played by MICAH LAIRD, who is picture perfect and has impressive vocal control, MARIA HELFRICH is Becky Bakowski, Eddie’s romantic interest through the years. Ms. Helfrich, who transforms from a chubby girl to a slim and trim grown woman also has a lovely voice.
None of the dozen or songs ever made the hit parade but they certainly move the story briskly along. The best song in the show in our opinion is “How Far is Too Far” which transitions into the Act One Finale with the entire company. SHELLI LONG, Musical Director created wonderful harmony in that number, and along with the vitality added by Choreographer JENNIFER DOURNAUX, made this number a show stopper.
Two other impressive numbers were “Cookie Cutters”, a song about everyone in the world being different by design and sung by SUE POPE as Sister Lee in Act One and “Friends, The Best of,” a duet between Eddie and Becky in Act Two.
The set by Production Manager TOM FALLON uses a wall from one end of the stage to the other that features stained glass windows to indicate the religious setting. Set pieces such as blackboards, and furniture were brought on and off as needed. Joining Tom for this production was his wife TINA FALLON as Costumer, a monumental task with 57 costumes for the cast of fourteen, reflecting all the time changes over the years. The costumes included plaid schoolgirl skirts and traditional attire for the priest and nuns.
Members of this outstanding cast, who dance, sing and act to make each unique character memorable are: SUSAN NOWELL as Sister Ann, TYLER PEERSON as Sister Regina, JESSICA FERRIS as Sister Helen, ROSEMARY DANN as Sister Monica Marie, RICH NOWELL as Father O’Reilly, MANDY MARCONI as Virginia Lear, GARY PEASE as Felix Lindor, SLY ROBINSON as Mike Depki, ZACH McLEAN as Louie Schlang, KATIE RAULERSON as Nancy Ralansky and CAROL HARDERN as Mary Kenny.
In the band with Ms. Long are DOUG BEARD and DAVID SMITH on percussion.
This revival of this gem of a musical will take you back to another time. And while schools and educational approaches have certainly changed over the ensuing decades, the questions and uncertainties that today’s young students face are in many ways the same and can be even more challenging.
There is a lot of humor in this musical, along with a happy ending. There is no language but there are sexual situations candidly discussed in a humorous manner.
You will receive an excellent playbill that has comprehensive biographies of all the cast and crew, as well as photos, and a synopsis of the scenes and musical numbers. It is one of the best we have ever seen anywhere.
“DO BLACK PATENT LEATHER SHOES REALLY REFLECT UP?” is a lot of fun, and so well done by Limelight. Don’t miss it. P.S. the male half of Dual Critics wore his black patent leather shoes to opening night. We recommend it as a technique for discovering the answer to the question posed by the play’s title.

About FOLIO

april, 2022

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