The romantic leads fail to heat up anywhere close to 110 in the Shade | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Review

The romantic leads fail to heat up anywhere close to 110 in the Shade

Still, BoHo Theatre's production is earnest and likable.

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

BoHo Theatre delivers an earnest, likable rendition of this 1963 musical version of N. Richard Nash's 1954 romantic comedy The Rainmaker, which BoHo produced six years ago. Enhanced with a score by lyricist Tom Jones and composer Harvey Schmidt—it was the songwriters' follow-up to their 1960 off-Broadway hit The Fantasticks—the story focuses on Lizzie Curry, the daughter of a rancher whose cattle are dropping dead during a drought in the Depression-era southwest.

The prolonged dry spell is a metaphor for Lizzie's parched emotional state; plain and plainspoken, unwilling and unable to play the girly games that other local ladies use to snag men, she faces and fears life as an "old maid." Enter con man Bill Starbuck, a traveling "rainmaker" on the lam from the law, who promises to bring rain to the community in return for $100. Lizzie's pa happily hands over the cash, recognizing that Starbuck may be Lizzie's last chance for love. Initially at odds, the hardheaded but unhappy realist Lizzie and the footloose dream weaver Starbuck find in each other the power to believe in themselves—a universal theme that offsets the plot's dated sexual attitudes.

Peter Marston Sullivan's staging features Neala Barron as Lizzie; she's an actor of real presence, and her plaintive soprano is well suited to the music. But there are no sexual sparks between her and Tommy Thurston's quirky, scruffy Starbuck. Denzel Tsopnang does what he can with the underwritten role of File, the sheriff who hides his own feelings for Lizzie behind a taciturn facade.   v

Add a comment