Passion and laughter in ‘The Baker’s Wife’ at Colonial Players of Annapolis

The actors hit all the right comic and emotional moments, and the show offers a lovely evening of music and romance.

Colonial Players’ production of The Baker’s Wife is a fun blend of comedy, music, and emotional moments. The 1989 musical, based on a 1938 French film, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Joseph Stein, tells the story of a newly arrived baker and his much younger wife in a small French village in 1935 in desperate need of a baker. Directed by Michelle Bruno, with LeVar Betts as music director, it offers both laughs and thoughtful reflection.

Steven J. Hoochuk plays Aimable, the new baker, with great passion. In “Merci, Madame,” he sings of the joy of providing a home for him and his wife (Sydne Lyons), twirling her around. After a sad discovery, he stumbles around the stage with a bottle, singing “Any-Day-Now Day” with barely controlled anger. In “If I Have to Live Alone,” he sings heartbreakingly of accepting his new state. At the end, he pours out his feelings to the cat Pom-Pom, who recently returned after running away, a mixture of admonishment, tenderness, and fear.

Steven Hoochuk as Aimable in ‘The Baker’s Wife.’ Publicity photo by Brandon Bentley.

Sydne Lyons gives a youthful energy to Genevieve, the baker’s wife. She is uncomfortable with being called “Madame Castagnet.” In “Gifts of Love,” she sings lovingly of Aimable, yet with a hint of regret. In “Meadowlark,” the musical’s most famous song, she sings powerfully of finding passion. In “Where Is the Warmth,” she realizes the fractures in her new relationship as she wraps a shawl around herself. Her reconciliation with Aimable is heartfelt and touching, as she embraces him.

Kirk Patton Jr. plays Dominique, the young man smitten with Genevieve, with determination. In “Proud Lady,” he sings of his obsession with her and his willingness to do anything to get her. In “Serenade,” he sings to Aimable of the “treasure” the baker has brought to the village, filled with ironic metaphors and double entendres. Drew Looney brings a quiet charm as Dominique’s friend Philippe, helping him with the “Serenade.”

Shelly Work plays Denise, the wife of the café owner, with a quiet strength. In the recurring “Chanson,” she sings of how life changes and of not really knowing the people closest to you. Bullied and stifled by her husband, Claude (Brian J. McNamara), she snaps back at him sometimes, standing up for herself. In “Romance,” she sings wistfully of the love she once had. Brian J. McNamara plays Claude with imperial authority, ordering around Denise and telling her to be quiet. In “Luckiest Man in the World,” he sings with joy of Aimable’s newly single condition.

Tom Newbrough gives a slightly rakish joy to the Mayor. He refutes the Priest’s (Aref Dajani) accusations of sinfulness, even as he walks around the village with his “nieces” Simone, Inez, and Nicole (Nicole Ricucci, Sarah Robinson, and Sarah Seider), who bring youthful delight to their roles. In “Feminine Companionship,” Newbrough sings of what Aimable “really” needs, while Ricucci, Robinson, and Seider glide around the stage and sit on the butcher’s lap.

Kirk Patton Jr. as Dominique, Sydne Lyons as Genevieve, and Steven Hoochuk as Aimable in ‘The Baker’s Wife.’ Publicity photo by Brandon Bentley.

Gene Valendo plays Barnaby the butcher with bitterness, always quarreling with others. He insults his wife Hortense (Becki Placella), who quietly takes it until finally standing up for herself. Andy Cosner plays the Teacher with the power of logic, constantly arguing with the Priest (Aref Dajani). Dajani plays the Priest with great piety, firmly upholding Church standards. In “If It Wasn’t for You,” he, Cosner, and Newbrough comically argue over their different ideologies. Talking with Genevieve during her crisis, though, forces them to work together and realize no one of their views has all the answers.

Cordell D. Smith plays Antoine with great comic timing, always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Katherine A. Lang and Taylor Hinds play neighbors bickering over their property. Jill Robinson plays the spinster Therese with fierceness, angrily refuting Genevieve’s actions. Vanessa Van Note and Madison Davis round out the cast as the Ensemble.

Set Designer Erin Nealer and Properties Designer Carrie Shade recreate the feel of a French village. A large fountain sits near the center, while café tables and chairs are to the left. The musicians are behind the tables, under the “Café Concorde.” On the other side, a long table covered in bread and baked goods, with delectable smells, shows the baker’s home, along with an oven in the wall behind them.

Costume Designer Linda Swann and Hair and Makeup Designer Michelle Bruno give the flavor of the era with simple dresses for the women and vests and baggy pants for the men; the Mayor stands out in a red cravat and red jacket, as does the Priest in his black shirt and clerical collar.

Lighting Designers Dianne Trickey and Jo-Anne Taylor help reflect the musical’s atmosphere. Blue light bathes the stage at night, and in one scene, one spotlight highlights Aimable weeping in one corner, while in the other, Genevieve and Dominique dance under the spotlights. Sound Designer Richard Atha-Nicholls throws out sounds of the village, such as a rooster crowing or a cat meowing.

Music Director LeVar Betts leads musicians Michael Santana, Heather Worsley, Louis Reichwein, Amanda McCurry, Audrey Change, Kelley Williams, and James Stewart to play with great energy and drive, ensuring the music is always heard. Choreographer Nicole Ricucci creates some delightful dance sequences and movements, especially for “Romance,” with the women gliding around the fountain. Michelle Bruno does a great job as director. The actors navigate the stage and each other well and hit all the right comic and emotional moments. While sometimes they can be difficult to hear over the music, they always sing with passion and energy. The Baker’s Wife offers a lovely evening of music and romance for bread-lovers and gluten-avoiders alike.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission.

The Baker’s Wife plays through March 30, 2024, at The Colonial Players of Annapolis – 108 East Street in Annapolis, MD. For tickets ($26 for adults; $21 for seniors, students, and military), call the box office at 410-268-7373 or purchase online.

A virtual playbill for The Baker’s Wife is downloadable here.

COVID Safety: Masks are optional, though strongly encouraged, as long as the CDC rating for Anne Arundel County is not “High.”


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