THE BAKER'S WIFE, One Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Based on Marcel Pagnol's popular 1938 film La femme de boulanger, itself an adaptation of Jean Giono's 1932 novel Jean le bleu, Stephen Schwartz and Joseph Stein's musical should be better than it is. The setting is exotic: a village in Provence. And the premise for the story--complications ensue when an older man marries a younger woman--has been a rich source for comedy at least since Chaucer wrote "The Miller's Tale." But Stein's book is too long and unfocused, and his characters are bland. Schwartz's songs are mostly forgettable. Worse, Stein and Schwartz constantly trip each other up, as when our concern for the baker's well-being after his wife leaves him for a younger man is undercut by a song showing us that he's accepted the idea of living alone.
All of the flaws are magnified by a badly cast and awkwardly directed production. Few of the performers seem right for their roles. Nerdy, bespectacled Joey Belmaggio might have done better as the priest or schoolteacher than as the decadent marquis--a role that seems better suited to the sensual, good-looking actor playing the village priest, Steven Johnson. And Derrick Trumbly and Erin Mosher have so little chemistry it's hard to believe they would have lured each other into an adulterous affair.