Are you hungry for some quality live theater? The Great American Melodrama’s latest production is a culinary mystery with a dash of comedy, a sprinkling of songs and a heaping helping of romance.
“Soup Du Jour” is a tasty musical treat in the style of the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s. Directed by George Walker with musical direction by Jordan Richardson and choreography by Michael Jenkinson, the play runs through June 12 at the newly renovated Melodrama in Oceano.
Roving reporter Katherine Hawks (Melody Goodell) is about to start her new assignment as London correspondent for the New York Herald. But before she goes, newspaper editor J.P. Thomson (Shelby Nichols) has one final assignment: “Get the scoop on the soup.”
The recipe for Bailey’s delicious soup du jour is one of the New York City restaurant industry’s most closely guarded secrets. In fact, the eatery hasn’t served the soup since old Ernest Bailey died three weeks ago.
That’s about to change the next day, when more than 300 wedding guests will slurp down soup in celebration of son and heir Stewart Bailey’s (Christopher Boyd) marriage to bubbly society brat Tiffany Vadervaden (Ali Keirn).
If Kate can reveal the recipe, it might be enough to save the Herald’s bacon— and put her chief rival, scheming society columnist Shelly DeCoco (Leah Kolb), on ice.
Kate disguises herself as a waitress and arrives at the restaurant, where she’s quickly pressed into service by maitre d’ Stewart and his best man, bartender Franklin O’Shea (DJ Canaday). (The entire wait staff has come down with German measles and they’re stuck busing tables themselves.)
Kate’s disguise works like charm. There’s only one problem: The directions for “That famous family broth that makes New York froth” are missing. Can Kate and Stewart find the recipe in time?
Written by Todd Mueller and Hank Bolland with songs by Gregg Opelka, “Soup du Jour” feels right at home in hustling, bustling New York City circa 1939.
The musical simply simmers with period references to everything from Charlie Chaplin to “Kiss Me, Kate.” And the central romance is straight out of a Howard Hawks movie.
Kate is a smart, sassy independent woman in the Katherine Hepburn mold, while Stewart has all the “aw shucks” shyness and moral gumption of a classic Jimmy Stewart character. They pitch woo like Hepburn and Stewart, too.
“Any other night I’d like to meet a man with a strong character and a strong heart,” Kate muses. “Go figure.”
Kate and Stewart have some nice moments together, but Tiffany’s tantrums and Franklin’s barbed bon mots get the most laughs.
With the exception of Leah Kolb, who’s appeared in “The Medicine Man,” “Trudy and the Beast” and the ever-popular “Holiday Extravaganza,” the cast of “Soup du Jour” consists entirely of Melodrama newcomers. Although the young cast members seemed a little shaky during a recent performance, they recovered nicely in time for a solid second act.
“Soup du Jour” is followed by a television-themed version of the traditional Vaudeville Revue, “Please Stand By”, directed and choreographed by Jim Shine.
Highlights include a barbershop ode to television and a clever skit in which the action continually switches back and forth between a football game and a soap opera.
“Good Morning, Oceano” examines a typical morning show, including two feuding morning anchors (Kolb and Boyd), a musical weather girl (Keirn), a very nervous travel expert (Goodell, channeling Kristin Wiig’s Penelope character) and the world’s worst financial expert (Canaday).
But the biggest crowd pleaser is sure to be “The Brody Bunch,” an amalgamation of “The Brady Bunch,” “The Partridge Family” and “I Love Lucy.” Keirn steals the show as a precocious little girl who just wants to perform in the family talent show.