Can a vacationing American businesswoman who has been longing for love find it with a handsome Venetian shop owner? That’s the question asked and answered in “Do I Hear a Waltz?” opening Friday, Jan. 31 at the Music Theatre Company in Highland Park. Dominic Missimi directs the chamber musical.
“I love the idea of doing ‘Do I Hear a Waltz?’ in this intimate space,” Missimi said, adding that he thought the problem with the show’s first Broadway staging in 1965 was that they added large dancing and singing choruses, which was not the intention of book writer Arthur Laurents. “I’m delighted to look at ‘Do I Hear a Waltz?’ as a small chamber musical with a small cast,” Missimi said.
The director noted that there are several things he loves about this musical. “It takes place in Venice and being an Italian it has an attraction to me because I love Italy so much.” Missimi also praised the “pedigree” of the writing team which, in addition to Laurents includes composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. “Three of the greatest people writing for the musical theater are involved in the show,” he said.
Missimi is equally enthusiastic about his two leads, Kelli Harrington as Leona, the lonely American, and David Girolmo, as the Italian storekeeper Renato.
“This summer, I did a production of ‘Gypsy’ at the Maine State Theatre and he was my Herbie,” the director said of Girolmo. “And Kelli was a student of mine at Northwestern several years ago. In the past couple of years, she has received fabulous reviews for the work she’s been doing.”
Leona is “a little bit of a paradox,” Harrington said. “She’s kind of lived an isolated, almost sheltered life even though she has a job dealing with people. She is a secretary in an advertising agency. This musical takes place during her first trip anywhere. It’s kind of her first big adventure —relatively later in life.”
Leona is “taken aback” by her first encounter with Renato because he acts so interested in her. It’s obvious that it won’t be her last encounter, though, because Leona is looking for something to “shock her out of the trance she’s been in,” Harrington explained.
Like Leona, Renato “wants something wonderful to happen and finds it in this woman,” actor Girolmo said. “He’s perfectly content to go on with his life the way it is but he’s looking for something extraordinary to happen to him. And when she walks into his store, he sees it in her.”
Girolmo likes the fact that his character is “honest and obviously romantic. I admire both of those things in people, particularly my age.”
Although both Harrington and Girolmo have done a number of book-in-hand staged readings, this is the first time either of them has been in a concert staging, where lines and songs are memorized but there is no set and few props.
“I suspect that with Dominic at the helm, it will be somewhat more staged and costumed than you would guess a concert version of anything would be,” Girolmo posited.
Indeed, Missimi noted that his cast will be costumed and there will be some furniture to reflect the setting.
Girolmo is particularly excited to be in this production because of the director, the creators and the fact that he has never been in this show before. He’s also doing it for the Music Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Jessica Redish. “I want her company to be successful and if I can play a small part in that by doing this show, let’s do it!”