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DO BLACK PATENT LEATHER SHOES REALLY REFLECT UP?

Reviewed by Tony Annicone, November 1, 2002

Academy Players first show of their 47th season is the funny but touching
musical, "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?". It focuses on
eight children during their Catholic elementary and high school education in
the 1950's, capturing the most humorous aspects of youthful growing pains and
the trying moments of adolescence. Director Steve Pacheco takes his 13 member
cast on a joyous journey into the 50's with his expert leadership and with
his musical director, Anthony Torelli, who also conducts a 14 piece
orchestra, gives the audience a very enjoyable evening of musical theatre at
its best. 

The show opens with a former student visiting his grade school to search for
his true love. We are taken back to his first day of school to see how their
relationship grew. Besides the eight students, there is the pastor of the
parish and four nuns in this cast and they all full there roles wonderfully.
Steve has an eye for detail and the revolving set on wheels with a scrim
background and benches moved on and off make the scenes flow smoothly into
one another. Not only does Steve direct this show, he also made the costumes,
too. (The girls plaid uniforms and the nuns outfits are very authentic
looking.) Anthony does an excellent job teaching the cast their many
intricate and difficult songs as well as leading a fantastic orchestra. The
harmonic blends in the choral numbers soar as do the solos and duets. The
strong leadership of Steve and Anthony shines through to make this show one
to be proud of. The added element of choreography is executed by Leslie
Choquette who does double duty by playing the role of Virginia. Her many
dances in the show include soft shoe, rock and roll, and some ballet steps
while wearing the infamous patent leather shoes. This is Leslie's debut as a
choreographer and she handles the job like an old pro, getting the whole cast
to do some pretty fancy and complicated footwork and doing it with ease. 

The two leads are played by Anthony Prichard as Eddie and Valerie Remillard
as Becky. The character of Eddie is a Charlie Brown type of role where he
doesn't catch on to things very quickly and when he makes up his mind about
something, it's usually too late. Anthony is a strong actor who captures the
youthfulness of the child as well as the pain during the teen years. His
poignant portrayal at losing Becky to the convent in the second act is very
convincing. He also handles his "I Must Be In Love" and "Late Bloomer" solos
very well. Valerie does an excellent job as the fat girl in Act 1. The pathos
of this hurt little girl comes through especially in the playground scene
where the other girls make fun of her and in the scene with Sister Lee where
Becky gets to crown the Blessed Mother. Valerie makes the transition from fat
to thin girl in her teenage scenes. Her gorgeous soprano voice sells the
"Little Fat Girls" ballad, the duets, "The Greatest Gift" and "Friends, The
Best Of". Great job. 

The other six students are played by strong actors, dancers and vocalists,
too. Steve Michelson plays Louis, the student always questioning the priest
about matters of faith. He gets a chance to show off his wonderful singing
voice in the rock & roll number "Doo-Waa, Doo Wee" in which he shakes his
pelvis like Elvis. Trish St. Laurent plays Nancy, the girl who wonders "How
Far Is Too Far", ( a song that reminds you of "At The Ballet" from "A Chorus
Line") after taking a sex education course in eighth grade but during her
senior year she ends up doing it with a college sophomore. Trish shows a
strong voice off in her solos and does a great job as this confused girl. The
troublemaker, Felix is played by Paul Oliver. The confession scenes are very
funny where he keeps getting more sins to confess as he grow up. Paul leads
the "Mad Bomber' song which sounds like "Greased Lightening" from Grease in
which the boys want to have sex while the girls sing about "Saving
Ourselves". Leslie as Virginia sings the lead in that number and she does a
good job in this role. Her dance numbers are wonderful but she really shines
in her ballet solo in the Act 1 finale. Tom Richards plays Mike whose older
brother knows everything and Mike makes sure he lets the other kids know it
constantly. Tom plays his comedic role well and has a fabulous baritone voice
which he uses in the chorus numbers and his solo lines, too. Shana Cobin
plays the teacher's pet, Mary who knows all the answers to all the questions.
She also shows her jealous streak when Becky gets to crown the BVM. Shana
plays a screaming fan in the second act during Steve's number which leads to
much laughter from the crowd. Great ensemble acting is seen throughout the
show by the student playing performers. 

The veteran performers in the cast portray the other roles. Don Cornell is
hilarious as Father O'Reilly especially when he teaches the boys sex
education classes and hears the children's confessions. Don and the boys sing
the funniest song of the show called "Private Parts". The penance he gives to
each one in confession to atone for their sins is very funny, too. Joann
Maccarone plays the strict, Sister Lee who opens her heart to Becky by
telling her God creates everyone differently in the "Cookie Cutters" song.
She also teaches the girls sex ed by telling them patent leather shoes
reflect up and pearls reflect down. One of her funniest lines is that most
rapes occur near restaurants so be very careful. Joann does a wonderful Irish
jig in the finale of Act 1. Wonderful character actress. Another actress who
shines in her role is Joetta McKenna as Sister Helen. She is the children's
teacher who disciplines them with her ruler and her book. Joetta has a
magnificent voice which soars off the charts in her song about God's love
being "The Greatest Gift". She will send chills up your spine. Rounding out
this talented cast are Janet Prichard who plays the gym teacher nun, Sister
Monica Marie and Amy Fletcher who plays the principal's secretary, Sister
Melanie. Another word of praise for the closing number of the show which
utilizes the whole cast in an enormous and very moving finale

So for a very entertaining evening of fantastic musical theatre, be sure to
see Academy Players, "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?". You
won't be disappointed.

 DO BLACK PATENT LEATHER SHOES REALLY REFLECT UP?( 1-10 Nov.)
 ACADEMY PLAYERS, The Odeum Theatre, Main St.,East Greenwich, RI
 1 (401) 885-6910