Oscar E Moore

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Peg O’ My Heart – Midtown International Theatre Festival musical

July 17th, 2011 by Oscar E Moore

Not since Annie and Sandy have a young girl and her dog charmed audiences to the extent that Peg and Michael do in the new musical Peg O’ My Heart which is being produced by Hell’s Kitchen Musicals and Northwest Playwrights Alliance as part of the 12th Midtown Theatre Festival at the June Havoc Theatre 312 West 36th Street.

If you are unable to catch one of the five performances rest assured that the lilting and beguiling Peg O’ My Heart will have a much longer run in the near future.  With some additional fine tuning Peg O’ My Heart could find itself plenty of admirers.

Based on the 1912 hit play by J. Hartley Manners (which starred Laurette Taylor) this new musical version has a book by Karin Baker and music by Fred Fisher.  Fred Fisher wrote the popular hit Peg O’ My Heart based on the play which caused the playwright to sue Mr. Fisher which resulted in Mr. Fisher having to use the likeness of Ms. Taylor and the dog on all copies of the sheet music which resulted in even more publicity for the show.  And here we are.

The creators have used additional songs from Mr. Fisher’s “hit” catalogue and interpolated them into the script resulting in a fun and entertaining evening of song and dance with some rather comical performances by the cast of eight.  An ensemble that runs the gamut from adequate to might be replaced to highly exceptional.  They all do their best but some are better suited than others in their roles.

Lyrics are by Alfred Bryan, Grant Clarke, Joe Goodwin, Howard Johnson, Joe McCarthy, Billy Rose, George Whiting and Greg Kayne.  Somehow, miraculously it all works – the songs fitting like kid leather gloves onto the creaky, predictable yet fun plot. 

A plot that includes the spunky, sassy and well intentioned Peg O’Connell (Brittney Lee Hamilton: a combination of Molly Brown and Eliza Doolittle) being sent off to London with her dog Michael ( the adorable and scene stealing Minnie Berloni) by her dad (Scott Willis – head of the Comedy Playhouse NYC) to become a Lady – being raised by her rather strict aunt Monica Chichester (Jennifer Smith) along with her cousins Ethel (Kelly Jeanne Grant) who wants to run off with the married cad Chris Brent (Ethan Angelica) and Alaric (a terrific Allen E. Read) a likable young gentleman who has difficulty with words like “work” and “poverty”. 

Recently made penniless by the failure of their bank the Chichesters take on their ward because of certain clauses in a certain will being executed by Hawks (David Arthur) for Peg’s uncle with lots of secret provisions that will eventually lead to the expected happy ending.  But not before Peg has had a positive effect on all those who come into contact with her, a masked ball and lots of seemingly mad men proposing to Peg with her charming song and dance suitor Jerry Adair (Jeremy Benton) conquering her heart.  Money is the root of all proposals here but true love conquers all.

Peg O’ My Heart is an old fashioned newly fashioned ode to song, dance and comedy nicely put together by director and choreographer James Gray with songs that surely will leave you happily humming as you return to the reality of the world outside the June Havoc Theatre.

Songs like “When I Get You Home Tonight” “Ireland Must be Heaven” “Father, You’ve Been A Mother To Me” “They Go Wild, Simply Wild Over Me” “I’d Rather Be Blue, Thinking of You” and of course Peg O’ My Heart”  lift the spirits and bring back fun.

With a tiny budget and a huge heart brimming with talent Peg O’ My Heart is a winner in the making.

www.midtownfestival.org  Tickets $18.00  Students and Seniors $15.00

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