A Catered Affair

Based on the 1956 Bette Davis film The Catered Affair, A Catered Affair is a 2008 Broadway musical collaboration between book writer Harvey Fierstein and composer/lyricist John Bucchino and director John Doyle.

The story follows a young couple, Jane and Ralph, who are planning to be married in less than a week.  The couple want a quick and small ceremony, but Jane’s mother, Aggie, has different plans, wanting to give Jane a large “catered affair” after a dinner with the groom’s parents.  To complicate matters more the bride’s father, Tom, needs money in order to buy out a share of his taxi company from a partner.  That, mixed with the story of Winston, the “bachelor uncle” who is in a snit for not being originally invited to the wedding, and Aggie and Tom’s son who has just died in the Korean War, serve as the basis for the musical.

The show opened on Broadway on April 17, 2008 and closed on July 27, 2008 after only 116 performances.  An unfortunate flop, and one that I really don’t understand.  The show is more of an intimate piece, not exactly a big Broadway show.  It has a lot of heart, though, that shows not only in the music, lyrics, and book but also within the look of the entire Broadway show.

It also helped that the Broadway production hired a cast of more than competent actors.  Faith Prince as Aggie is beyond words playing the wife that has watched life pass her by, and Tom Wopat is equally good playing husband Tom opposite her.  Then, of course, there’s Harvey Fierstein as Winston, and you can’t get much better than Harvey Fierstein in a show.  Leslie Kritzer and Matt Cavenaugh round out the main cast as the two love birds and they each offer their own charming touches to the roles.  With that cast alone, it’s a shame that the original production didn’t stay longer.

Fortunately for everyone,  a cast recording was released, and although I’m a fan that wishes the entire production was recorded, filmed live, made into a big-budget movie (so that I could then scathe that they hired Hollywood actors instead of Broadway), and become the biggest thing to hit the scene since pudding, the cast recording preserves the show nicely.  Highlights include the opening number, “Partners”, Harvey Fierstein’s fiery  “Immediate Family”, Leslie Kritzer’s delightful “One White Dress”, and two passionate numbers for Faith Prince: “Our Only Daughter” and “Vision”.

So that’s that.  Seriously, if you’re a Broadway lover and don’t own this cast recording, go out and get it now.  Yeah, that’s an order.  Do it.

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