Riverside Center for the Performing Arts presents Meet Me in St. Louis, with songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and book by Hugh Wheeler. Based on The Kensington Stories by Sally Benson and the MGM motion picture Meet Me in St. Louis, this musical follows the lives of the Smith family during the year leading up to the 1904 opening of the World’s Fair. Produced and directed by Patrick A’Hearn, Meet Me in St. Louis is a nostalgic trip back to a simpler time, which a lot of us could use right now!
Musical Director Carson Eubank leads a live orchestra for this production, which continues to be a big draw for Riverside, who are widely known for their expert musical numbers. Scenic Designer Frank Foster transforms the stage into the handsome interior of the Smith family home, and Kyna Chilcot does a great job designing the period costumes that showcase American fashion from well over a century ago (think ruffled dresses and parasols). The technical team, directed by Will O’Donnell, produce effects of the highest quality and give the performers a richly detailed space to work with.
The plot centers around the two eldest of four sisters in the Smith family. Esther (Ally Dods) is lovesick for the family’s new neighbor John Truitt (Jackson Hurt), which she expresses in the number “The Boy Next Door,” while Rose (Sarah Mae Anderson) impatiently waits for her beau Warren Sheffield (Ian Charles) to propose. While the family bickers over this and that, their love and support for each other is highlighted in the song “Whenever I’m With You.” Their mother Mrs. Smith (Heather Mcintosh-Braden) doles out love advice in the sweet number “You’ll Hear a Bell,” and later their cheeky maid Katie (Andrea Kahane) offers her own insight with the playful “A Touch of the Irish.”
The vocals are lovely, particularly Dods’s highly anticipated “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which, given the season, received the most enthusiastic response, second to the well-loved “Trolley Song” (for which an actual trolley was specially made)! Stephanie Wood does a great job as choreographer for this production, most notably in the ensemble numbers “Skip to My Lou” and “The Banjo.” From traditional square dancing to a sophisticated waltz and impressive leaps and stunts, the dancing is a particularly memorable facet of this show.
The plotline is fairly simple and straightforward, making the song-and-dance numbers easily the main lure for Meet Me in St. Louis. However, some fun is brought into the plot with comedic relief from Grandpa Prophater (Robert L. Nelson) and the two younger Smith sisters. Tootie and Agnes Smith (Fiona J. Scripps and Kylee Hope Geraci) are spirited and mischievous and receive a lot of laughs from the audience. The show is wholesome, sentimental, and highlights the warmth and comfort of family. Perfect for this time of year!
Riverside Center for the Performing Arts’ Meet Me in St. Louis is a good-natured classic that the whole family can enjoy together. The past couple of years have been trying, especially for families. A viewing of this show is a great way to welcome the season and celebrate togetherness.
Running time: Approximately two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
Meet Me in St. Louis plays through December 31, 2021, at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts — 95 Riverside Parkway, Fredericksburg, VA. To purchase tickets (dinner and show $70–$75 plus tax, show only $55–$60), call (540) 370-4300 or order online.