Bucks County Herald

Theater review:

"The Rivals" at BRT is clever new take on old play


Front and center are Ken Massey as Captain Jack Absolute and Erin Mackey as Lydia Languish. Harriet Harris as Mrs. Malaprop is second row right, holding the red umbrella.

It was an exciting opening night at Bristol Riverside Theatre last Thursday night at the world premiere of a new musical comedy, “The Rivals.”

In the parking lot, there was a search light to add to the celebrity feeling.

It wasn’t just the clever acting. It wasn’t just the excellent singing or the extraordinarily beautiful and appropriate costumes. Nor, was it just the carefully designed set pieces creatively moving around the stage with perfect timing that made this musical so extraordinary.

Rather, it was the skillful convergence of all of these elements into an imaginative, clever new take on an old play ably shepherded by director Eric Tucker with book and lyrics by two-time Tony-nominee Peter Kellogg and music by two-time Rodgers Award-winner Stephen Weiner.

“The Rivals,” a comedy of manners play, was first written in five acts by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Set in Bath, England, it originally opened in 1722. Two hundred plus years later, in June, 1922, it opened on Broadway as a play in three acts, but ran for only eight performances. Now, there is a two-act musical version at BRT, certain to be successful.

There were subsequent attempts to revive this play, but as funny as leading lady Mrs. Malaprop is, and as hysterically funny is her misuse of similar sounding words, now known as “malapropisms,” it has taken Kellogg, Winer and Tucker to breathe new life into a 200-plus-year-old-story so that it is both funny and entertaining, and it is told in just two acts.

Now, Mrs. Malaprop can sing her incorrectly chosen words as well as speak them. She induces belly laughs from the audience with expressions like “obliterate” for “alligator,” “auspicious” for “suspicious” persons, and many more.

“The Rivals” is being produced at Bristol Riverside Theatre in association with Joe Davis and Amy E. Gewirtz, who are developing the show for a future Broadway run.

It features the following experienced and so very talented Broadway actors: Harriet Harris as Mrs. Malaprop, Kevin Massey as Captain Jack Absolute, Erin Mackey as Lydia Languish, Ed Dixon as Sir Anthony Absolute, John Treacy Egan as Sir Lucius McTrigger, Charlotte Maltby as Julia Melville, Emma Stratton as Lucy, Joe Veale as Thomas, Jim Weitzer as Faulkland, and Chris Dwan as Squire Bob Acres – also the dance captain.

The musical director is Steve Marzullo, Jason A. Sparks is choreographer and Jason Simms is scenic designer. Lisa Zinni designed costumes while Joe Doran and Bradlee Ward did lighting and sound design respectively. Steve Marzullo directed the off-stage orchestra while Sean Ravitz was production stage manager.

The opening night audience loved this highly entertaining musical, showing their wild appreciation with a standing ovation.

“The Rivals,” the musical, continues at Bristol Riverside Theatre with performances for only two weeks through Nov. 18.

Call the box office at 215-785-0100 or go to brtstage.org to order tickets.



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