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posted May 8, 2010, 6:08 PM by Steve Umberger   [ updated Mar 25, 2015, 8:15 PM ]

by Roy Dicks (Excerpted)

"In its inaugural production at Cape Fear Regional Theatre, "Piccadilly" takes the writer's flesh-and-blood characters and sets them to the music of veteran off-Broadway composer Mike Craver. The acting, musical and technical talent are first-rate, and the themes about aging and family are universal.

The story centers on shy Carl, who helps his beloved Aunt Lil move to Rosehaven, an assisted-care facility. Lil befriends addlepated residents Clara and Beatrice, and Carl falls for charming social worker Anna. Much of the plot revolves around resident L. Ray Flowers, the Baptist preacher whose wild-eyed sermons and grand ideas lead to his notion of combining nursing home and churches into "nurches."

In his first attempt at adapting his own work, Edgerton retains many of the book's hilarious moments, from Lil's wild drive with her cronies, to Clara's outbursts of foul language and Beatrice's confusion over historical personalities, to talk about favorite foods at the Piccadilly cafeteria. And there are the moving episodes, from Lil leaving her long-term home to the residents grappling with memory loss and complicated Medicare rules.

Having Craver on board as composer and co-lyricist means a number of quirky and poignant songs (Edgerton also contributes a couple of numbers). The flamboyant and funny songs easily entertain, but it's the heartfelt songs that linger, such as Lil and Carl's wistful "Home Is Where the Heart Stays" and Anna and Carl's melancholy "Half Empty Room."

Director Steve Umberger gets strong, confident characterizations from the cast, especially veteran actors Bo Thorp and Mayon Weeks. Thorp gives Lil wonderful pluck and resilience, masking a touching fear of losing mobility. Weeks finds the right combination of zeal and crustiness for L. Ray, covering an abiding fear of being left alone. Both are pros at finding nuance in their musical numbers.

Greg King makes Carl engaging in his devotion to Lil and his awkward wooing of Anna. CoCo Sansoni gives Anna believable sweetness and understanding, pairing convincingly with King, especially in their winning duets. Patricia Cucco (Clara) and Phoebe Hall (Beatrice) give vibrancy and zaniness to their characters, while Vivian Wade-Banks as Carrie, the dedicated Rosehaven worker, Libby McNeill Seymour as Geraldine, the officious administrator, and Rob Summers, the greedy facility owner, all make fine contributions.

The realistic front-porch setting by Linwood Taylor and the atmospheric lighting by David Castaneda add layers of richness. Craver, along with Amy Jones and Rick Starling, play the music with subtlety and charm."