Robert Massimi Writes for: Metropolitan Magazine and New York Lifestyles Magazine.
“The Baker’s Wife”
J2Spotlight Continues to Impress”
In the last day of J2 Spotlight’s last show, “The Baker’s Wife” at Theater Two on Theater Row serves up another winner. Like last months “A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine”. “Wife” had as much talent and panache as any put on by J2.
Set in Provence, France, this musical which had both lyrics and music written by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell and Wicked) was originally supposed to have come to Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre back in 1976, but never did. With the book by Joseph Stein, it does not take one long to realize that this is a classic musical. Classic in that it has memorable songs, very good singing, acting and even good dancing (Caitlin Belcik does a good job with a small stage as choreographer).
Kelly Lester (Denise) begins the show with a soulful tune, “Chanson”, joined by The Village in “If it Wasn’t for You” to start the show. The town is waiting for a new baker since the last one passed on several weeks ago. The town prides itself on smallness, everyone knows everyone else, and the center of the action is based around a small cafe. Joshua Warner’s scenic design is quaint and elegant… making the most of this tiny stage Warner was magnificent in his design.
When the baker arrives, the town is both stunned at how good of a baker he is and equally as stunned at how young and beautiful his wife is. Genevive (Madison Claire Parks) is a woman who desperately wants to love her husband, Aimable (Howard Pinhasik). The baker is a man who sees the world as good; he is a good-hearted man and loves his wife unconditionally as he loves the world. He is a man who does not care what people say nor think about him and his young wife. In “Merci, Madame” we see the two different thoughts that each spouse has upon one another; Genevive has settled for Aimable, she once loved a boy who is now married “Meadowlark”, but the baker is filled with joy to have such a wonderful wife.
The beginning of Act Two brings the show’s strongest dancing and probably the best two songs throughout the performance. “The Luckiest Man in the World” and “Feminine Companionship”. Marquis (Cooper Grodin) is a man who loves the ladies (he has one of the stronger voices among the cast) tries to cheer up the baker who has now refused to bake any longer. The baker has lost his wife to a younger boy named Dominique (Bruce Landry). The town is doing everything they can to pick his spirits up. In this small town, grudges go a long way and so do humorous insults.
In the strong second act filled with terrific songs, the only thing that was a setback was Ethan Steimel and Burkett Horrigan’s lighting designs. Far too often the stage was washed in aqua blue paired by periwinkle blue. This made it difficult to see the stage from afar, it also created a heavy feeling to watch making it at times seem like the show was suspended on stage. The musical was much better when it had the yellows, reds and whites; it gave more of an upbeat mood that is this musical. The heavier lights gave it a gothic, depressed feel to it and caused some to nod off during the performance.
While Grant Evan (Priest) was miscast, the rest were very effective. Cooper Grodin, Brian Michael Henry (Teacher), Howard Pinhasik, Madison Claire Parks, Kelly Lester and Eric Michael Gillett were standouts in this that was based on the film “La Femme De Boulanger”. Under the direction of Robert W. Schneider, J2 Spotlight once again proves why it is one of the best theater companies in New York City.
The Baker’s Wife. Theater Review.
Published: March 20th 2022