Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Delaware Theater Company’s "Diner" Serves Delectable Entertainment

Ari Brand, Matthew James Thomas, Derek Klena, Ethan Slater,
and Noah Weisberg. Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media.
This past weekend, Delaware Theater Company (DTC) opened yet another New York City-bound production, Diner, the musical. Based on Barry Levinson’s iconic 80’s film, the musical (for which he also wrote the book), has music and lyrics by multi-Grammy Award-winner, Sheryl Crow and is directed by three-time Tony Award-winner, Kathleen Marshall.

Set in Baltimore during 1959, Diner follows the lives of six 20-something men – Ari Brand (Eddie), Aaron C. Finley (Billy), Derek Klena (Boogie), Ethan Slater (Modell), Matthew James Thomas (Fenwick) and Noah Weisberg (Shrevie). The longtime friends contemplate love, marriage, sex, success, family life, the future, and other issues, while hanging at their favorite diner.

Eddie is experiencing cold feet with his upcoming nuptials to Elyse (Tess Soltau) on New Year’s Eve. The lovelorn Billy is trying to win the heart of career-minded Barbara (Brynn O’Malley). Boogie, the consummate ladies man, is increasing his debt by making ill-advised bets with back-alley bookies. Modell goes along with his friends’ antics, but is the first to flee when things go awry. Fenwick, a trust-fund baby, is a free spirit rebelling against his family, but running out of money. Shrevie, a music lover, is finding his marriage to Beth (Erika Henningsen) isn’t all bliss.

While the men meet at the diner, the ladies also meet to discuss their sides of the situations. Elyse is preparing for her wedding as well as for a football test her fiancé is administering to prove her love to him. If she passes the test, they will walk down the aisle by the end of the week; if not, wedding bells won't ring for this couple. Barbara is a headstrong businesswoman trying to make it in the male-dominant broadcasting field. Climbing the corporate ladder interests her more than settling down to raise a family with Billy. Finally, the housewife Beth is trying to keep her marriage from falling apart, while still having her own identity. Essentially, these ladies are pioneering what will become the feminist movement in the next decade.  

Sure, the story of the musical isn’t groundbreaking material, but the show is about entertaining the audience, and Ms. Marshall has assembled a group of actors who are ready to entertain! 

The charismatic ensemble cast is superb as they perform on DTC’s most ambitious set in its 37-year history. The production’s multifaceted set by Derek McLane moves and transforms to become the diner, a salon, a movie theater and the outside of a church, where one of the most compelling of Ms. Crow’s numbers is performed. Mr. Thomas’s erratic performance of I Got No Home is shocking, but heartfelt as he sings about his rebellious lifestyle and the treatment he receives from his family.

Ms. Crow has written a score full of exuberant, foot tapping 50’s style music (What Would You Bet? and Gotta Lotta Woman) sprinkled with sumptuous ballads (Tear Down This Home and I Can Have It All). Best known as a leading rock-n-roll artist, Ms. Crow proves she can seamlessly transfer her musical talents to the stage!      

Diner offers up a slice of life from a bygone era that is always fun to visit. A time when an app on a smartphone can’t be used to figure out the actor in a Hitchcock film, but instead friends have a lively discussion to unveil the correct thespian.  

Diner fans can enjoy an extended run through January 3, at Delaware Theater Company. Visit or call 302.594.1100 for additional information and tickets.     

1 comment:

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