Pretty and frothy best describe the musical Meet Me in St. Louis, playing matinees and evenings through Nov. 19 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre.
There's hardly a smidgen of tension, conflict or sadness in the two hour, 20-minute show — just good voices singing lovely songs, several of them familiar to the audience, gorgeous period costumes, a perfect recreation of the interior of a 1903 St. Louis home, and a couple of high-stepping production numbers.
Meet Me in St. Louis is as lightweight as it is light-hearted, but, in this day of distressing news on nearly all fronts, that could be exactly what people want.
Who would dare quarrel with the picture-perfect Smith family's everyday tribulations, where the most distressing tragedies are the names on a dance card or a misunderstanding between two high school sweethearts? It's sweet almost to the point of parody in some spots, but, in the end, lifts the mood, if not the spirits.
Meet Me is an extended vignette of idealized turn-of-the-20th-century family life in the year before the opening of the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. It centers around the youthful romances of sisters Esther and Rose Smith (Krista Severeid and Emily Parrott, both making their Show Palace debuts) and the antics of little sister Tootie (an adorable Megan Sell), whose melodramatic exaggerations set up what little discord the show has.
Whatever, it's the characterizations, songs and dances that make this show work, not the story. Most appealing are Tootie's charming Drunk Song, Tootie and Esther's duo, Under the Bamboo Tree, and the two big dance scenes, to Skip to My Lou and The Banjo. The familiar title song, as well as The Trolley Song and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas provide beautifully nostalgic moments.
Itzy Friedman is a charmer as Grandpa Prophater, who steps in to save the day (and a few scenes) with his wit and twinkle. John Debkowski, as Esther's suitor John Truitt, pleases with his engagingly smooth croon in Over the Bannister, You Are For Loving and The Boy Next Door. Bonnie Agan plays Katie the Irish maid, but the role could really sparkle if only she put more Irish in it.
William Garon is delightful as the family patriarch who upsets the apple cart when he announces a move to New York, but makes the move almost palatable with his rich voice singing the praises of the Big Apple, A Day in New York. Dawn Trautman is suitable as Mrs. Anna Smith, the matriarch of the family.
The show's most unforgettable moments, however, are brief appearances by Show Palace favorite Candler Budd, first in the welcoming speech, which turns into a mini stand-up routine, and several walk-on roles as a trolley driver, then a nerdy dweeb at the big dance. Having Budd in these tiny roles is like having comic Steve Martin do walk-on bits during Saturday Night Live; he's an eye-magnet whose star power outshines anyone else on stage, and, like Martin, he just can't help it.
Overall, the cast and crew do a lot with a little, but Ms. Severeid's Esther sometimes takes spunk too far and makes her big, belting voice border on cringe-worthy. Such volume and projection might be necessary in a huge theater, but needs to brought down in the relatively intimate Show Palace.
That said, Meet Me in St. Louis is a pleasant, inoffensive way to spend some time in the early days of autumn.