Carmelina – Vintage Sentiment

Remember when the adjectives “heartwarming” and “sentimental” weren’t sarcastic? This is a warm bath of a musical with some lovely, if unmemorable songs, light, comic moments, and romance; a sweet story full of people who do the right thing, despite initially feeling betrayed. The production is deft, direction engaging, voices excellent all around.

You may be familiar with the plot of Lerner and Lane’s 1979 Carmelina from 1968’s non-musical Hollywood version, Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell starring Gina Lollobrigida.

Timothy John Smith, Anne L. Nathan, Joey Sorge, Jim Stanek, Antonio Cipriano

Signora Carmelina Campbell (Andrea Burns) is an attractive widow raising her daughter Gia (MaryJoanna Grisso) in a small Italian town. Seventeen years ago, when San Forino was occupied by (WWII) American soldiers, our then teenage heroine successively allowed three GIs to lodge at her otherwise empty house. She also let each into her bed.  Gia is seventeen, the same age her mother was when she became pregnant.

In order to stay in the tight knit, Catholic community, Carmelina required a husband. She made up a soldier named Eddie Campbell (after the soup) who “died” a war hero. With no resources and no idea which man was the father, she appealed to all three lovers: Walter Braddock (Evan Harrington), Steve Karzinski (Timothy John Smith), and Carlton Smith (Jim Stanek), each of whom, unaware of the other, sends a monthly check from the states. Purportedly faithful to Campbell’s memory, she keeps suitor Vittorio Dela Marta (Joey Sorge) at arms’ length.

Jim Stanek, Timothy John Smith, Evan Harrington

Everything is swell until the veterans arrive for a reunion in San Forino. (A post office strike keeps the town from knowing beforehand.) Carmelina has no time to get out. On top of that, Gia, who’d been safely away at finishing school in Switzerland, is given a heads up and returns to grill the men about her father. Three of them expect to meet a daughter.

You can imagine what happens: secrecy, competition, comic miscommunication, outrage, hurt, and the realization that Carmelina did what she had to for Gia, ultimately hurting no one.

Casting is spot on in this production. Everyone looks kind of like we’d imagine. All have talent.

Joey Sorge and Andrea Burns

Handsome, romantic lead Joey Sorge (Vittorio) at first seems exaggerated, out of keeping with the rest of the company. Warmth, small, subtle stage business, and charming vocals bring us into his corner.

Andrea Burns portrays the formidable Carmelina with great spirit. Emotion is credible. The actress has terrific comic timing – throw away exit lines are particularly adroit. Clear, leading lady vocals are a pleasure.

The three veterans are physically very different. All have good voices; harmony is attractive. Each player manages to display expectation, delight, disappointment, anger, and understanding with a bit of individuality. MaryJoanna Grisso (Gia) brings to mind Anna Maria Alberghetti in the show Carnival. She has a fetching soprano and projects youthful innocence.

Gia’s aspiring swain, Roberto (Antonio Cipriano), is slim, ingenuous and has a winning tenor. Carmelina’s housekeeper, Rosa (Anne L. Nathan), effects droll delivery and a fine, controlled belt.

Italian accents are Hollywoodish, but admirably consistent, they work. In fact, Director Michael Leeds approaches the presentation with more attention to detail than many other successful muftis. Use of stage and aisles is aesthetically and dramatically pleasing. Pacing is good. Facial expression is evocative.

David Hancock Turner offers robust, textured Music Direction/Piano.

Photos by Ben Strothman
Opening: Andrea Burns

The York Theatre Company
Musicals in Mufti presents
Book-Joseph Stein and Alan Jay Lerner
Lyrics-Alan Jay Lerner
Additional Lyrics-Barry Harman
Music-Burton Lane
Directed by Michael Leeds
Music Direction/Piano-David Handcock Turner
Bass-Joseph Wallace
Theater at St. Peter’s  54th East of Lexington

NEXT: The Day Before Spring- February 9-17
Alan Jay Lerner and Fredrick Lowe

About Alix Cohen (1720 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.