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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
If Only

By Laura Hitchcock
You either crash into society like a cannon ball or slip into it like a disease.
Balzac's tragedy, Pere Goriot, would seem slim pickings for a musical. But in the hands of composer/librettist Matthew Goldsby, who has a gift for structure and a wonderful way with a libretto, the full colors of the author's Human Comedy emerge.

Goldsby opens the show with the sorrowful figure of Goriot mourning his distant daughters. However, the emphasis quickly shifts to fellow boarder and law student Eugene, a delicious and na´ve young man new to Paris, whose head is quickly turned when he meets his beautiful cousin Anastasie, Goriot's oldest daughter, at a ball. The plot revolves around Eugene's infatuation with Anastasie and subsequently her sister Delphine, and the financial desperation that leads to his asking his mother for her life savings. Subplots involve Old Goriot's desperate efforts to retrieve his daughters' dowries (and love), Eugene's tender relationship with young Victorine a fellow boarding house resident and the villainous Vautrin. Torn between two beauties as well as between love and honor, Eugene comes of age with a bang.

Social climbing and financial compulsion are as prevelant today as they were in 19th century France. The callousness of children towards their parents is a theme Balzac repeats twice, first through Goriot's daughters, then through Eugene himself. Balzac was a lawyer (as is Matthew Goldsby) and very clearly defined the legal restrictions and possibilities of the social scene.

The music is well integrated into the book. Songs don't stick out like officious thumbs. They range from a wonderfully raunchy can-can to the slyly humorous "Wits With Us" to delicate ballads like "I Can Tell" and the solid curtain number, "Carry On."

Craig Carlisle directs this superb production in a very 19th century fashion, echoing elements of Les Miserables, the Feydeau farces and Moliere. A particularly farcical example is the crisply choreographed perfrmance of Ogie Zulueta as Inspector Gondureau.

The excellent cast is headed by Norman Snow as Goriot who gives the full measure to this best known of Balzac's creations. Dustin Strong brings vulnerability and charisma to Eugene. Fred Sanders plays the villainous Vautrin with a suave naturalness that is genuinely bloodcurdling. One of attorney Goldsby's funniest numbers "Wits With Us", is a comic paean for the elderly by Melinda Peterson's Mlle. Michonneau and Robert W. Goldsby as the aged Poiret who can do more with a syllable than most actors can with a soliloquy.

Music, Lyrics and Book by Matthew Goldsby
Director: Craig Carlisle
Cast: Norman Snow (Goriot), Dustin Strong (Eugene), Fred Sanders (Vautrin), Makinna Ridgway (Victorine), Melinda Peterson (Mlle. Michonneau), Robert W. Goldsby (Poiret), Donna Pieroni (Mme. Vauquer), Susan Rudick (Sylvie), Jonathan Grey (Christophe), Elisa J. Nixon (Mme. De Beauseant), Leslie McDonel (Delphine), Taylor Jordan (Anastasie), Jacquey Rosati (Duchesse de Langeais, Eugene's Mother), Kyle Nudo (Maxime, The Priest), Ogie Zulueta (Inspector Gondureau), Chloe Patellis (Anastasie's Maid), Nicole Kaplan (Beauseant's Servant).
Musical Direction/Pianist: Brian Murphy
Choreography: Courtney Selan
Associate Producer: Angela Paton
Set & Lighting Design: Jeff Robinson
Costume Design: Gelareh Khalioun
Running Time: Two and a half hours, including one intermission
Running Dates: 5/07/05 to 6/19/05
Where: Globe Playhouse, 1107 North Kings Road, West Hollywood. Phone: (323) 960-7863
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on May 7.
The Songs
Act One: Ah Life, Ach Life, Oh Father, If Only, Society, Believe in Me, Ten Percent, Believe in You, Why Me? Take Me Back, I Can Tell, The President, Beautiful Gown, Last Tear.
Act Two: Wits with Us, Montage, The Flow, The Deed is Done, Much to My Chagrin, Everything is Gone, On Your Own, Carry On.

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