“Five Course Love” musical makes for a great date-night at the Williamston Theatre (review)

I love discovering new musicals that I have neither heard of nor seen, and then seeing them done well. Such is the case with Five Course Love at the Williamston Theater. This professional theater company continues to impress with their work, and this production is top-notch. An easy drive from Ann Arbor, this side of Lansing, it’s a great night out.

Laura Croff, Aaron T. Moore, and Matthew Gwynn in Five Course Love. Photo by Chris Purchis, Williamston Theatre

Three actors perform fifteen roles in a series of mishaps at differently themed restaurants, all loosely revolving around the theme of love. The music roughly follows the theme of each restaurant (country/western at the BBQ; fifties-pop in the diner; etc). Playwright/Composer Gregg Coffin has written a dandy show — one that deserves more stagings in the future.

The script is clever and funny. The music is musical. The lyrics are hilarious (and at times, bawdy — keep the under-13’s at home for this one). It’s a very difficult piece to perform, but it’s done well here. The cast did look tired heading into the final scene of the show; and the show itself does go on a bit long in one or two of the scenes.

Laura Croff, Aaron T. Moore, and Matthew Gwynn each contribute a handful of characters – at times more than one at once! They are personable, generally sound good together, and are clearly having tremendous fun. Harmonies suffer in a few instances, but that does not distract from the general goings-on. Musical accompaniment is provided by Jeff English, who is also the Musical Director. He has performed a great job with the cast, and he joins in on the fun from time to time as the performance progresses.

Bartley Bauer has designed a serviceable set; its gorgeously lit by Ted Rhyner with great costumes by Melanie Schuessler. At times, the costumes and props take on a life of their own (i.e. Laura’s leather ensemble as Gretchen; the horses in the Ballad of Guillermo).

But the evening wouldn’t be possible without the terrific direction of Tom Woldt. He uses cleverly repeating patterns that set character against character, and makes excellent use of the smaller theater space. It’s all tied together nicely in the final scene. This is fine directing.

Grab some tickets, bring a date, and go laugh. This is a wonderful summer surprise. Bravo to the Williamston Theatre for taking a risk with this lesser known work, and for giving it a top-notch home for the summer.

Williamston Theatre, Williamston Michigan – Tickets by phone at 517-655-SHOW.

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