Drama and comedy tend to exist in a place of heightened reality where clear conversations don’t happen and logic is unheard of. Musicals exist in an even higher place of reality where love is obvious and taking the time to know someone is an excuse to sing. When the three come together you get something that looks like The Most Happy Fella. The incredible music of the musical makes falling in love with this show easy, but the disconnected nature of the romantic comedy makes breaking-up even easier.
The Most Happy Fella follows a waitress by the name of Rosabella. One day, while working a long shift, Rosabella finds a jeweled tie pin and a love letter for her. The letter holds an address and soon the waitress decides to write back. In Napa, we learn the letter was written by Tony, an older Italian gentleman who owns a profitable vineyard. After receiving a picture from Rosabella, Tony decides to send one back. He feels insecure about his age, and y sends Rosabella a picture of his young foreman instead. Tricked with the picture and love letter, Rosabella goes to Napa where she discovers the lie and the wonderful vineyard Tony calls home.
The story quickly escalates with a baby, a gun, and a few Texans. During all of this, you hear incredible music thanks to a cast of talented vocalists, especially Bill Marshall’s Tony. Marshal’s operatic range gives his performance a depth that lifts you up from the inside. The same can be said for the trio of Christina Christensen, Trevor Todd, and Allesio Tranchell. These singers consistently filled the room with the giddy and wonder you want in musical theater. Accompanied by pianists Carson Rose Schneider and Paul Kovacovic, the 12 person cast creates a show that lives up to the prestige of Frank Loesser.
Take all of that and compress it into the beautiful Historic Mounds Theatre, add the fantastic set design seen in the show, and top it with the choreography of Jennifer Eckes and you come away with that sincere feeling one wants from a musical. Paired with the music, the dancing does a great job of illustrating just how loving and close Tony’s employees are. Thanks to their often symmetrical movements and lighting, we see a literal group of people lovingly surround both Rosabella and Tony. Eckes for her part creates movements that feel active and reflective of the characters and emotions the scenes emote.
In essence, the music from this show will take you someplace grand, but once you get there you’re going to get hit by a bus headed to logic town. This seems to be the only flaw in the production--at every possible interval the story somehow turns you off. Maybe it’s the odd way Rosabella and Tony fall in love so quickly, or how a character was nearly killed without even knowing about it, or how one character is entirely identifiable from the fact that he is from Dallas and incapable of anger. We give romantic comedies a lot of leeway in terms of being logical, but this musical abandons a lot of the human experience when it comes to things like anger and love. This isn’t any of the actor’s fault, it just creates a very jerky reaction when it comes to the suspension of disbelief.
If you're interested in this show I'm going to strongly recommend not asking questions. Come for the pageantry of the music and stifle any attempt at an explanation for things like: Why did that ranch hand have a gun? Why does Tony have an accent when his sister doesn't? Is anyone going to tell Joe he's a father? Because the music is so incredibly good.