Sometimes all you need is a committed, eager, talented cast, a piano and a director with vision to deliver a delightful evening of musical theatre. And Music Theatre Company in Highland Park, under the direction of Dominic Missimi, is serving up a scrappy, sincere and streamlined production of that legendary flop musical, The Baker’s Wife — a show with a magnificent score by Stephen Schwartz and a charming, if problematic book, by Joseph Stein.
Perhaps most amazingly, this production, which was marketed as a “staged concert,” is nearly fully staged, with costumes, blocking and committed performances from a refreshingly diverse cast — a remarkable feat given Missimi and cast had just seven, three-hour rehearsal days to pull it together. Indeed, this is a Baker’s Wife that embraces the (perhaps overly simple) storyline with aplomb.
Upon watching this production, it became clear to me why this musical might not have achieved the success its creators had hoped for (famously, the show toured for six months in 1975 with significant script and cast changes, before abruptly cancelling its long-delayed Broadway opening). While a charming show, it’s not a particularly engaging one: we know where it’s all going long before it gets there, and the characters are painted in very broad strokes. In the version of the script performed by Music Theatre Company, the baker’s wife, Genevieve (a lovely Sarah Bockel) abandons her doting, sweet and significantly older husband Aimable (the endearing Peter Kevoian) for the dashing Dominique (David Sajewich) with relatively little arm twisting. He kisses her, she sings “Meadowlark,” and she’s outta there. But, in act two, she decides, in a single scene, it was a poor decision and crawls back to her broken-hearted husband, hat in hand. And with little push back, he accepts her.
Everyone comes off a bit naive as no real conflict has materialized — aside from the small French village having to forgo fresh-baked bread for a spell.
So, while the show may have its problems, Music Theatre Company’s production works through them by delivering the paper thin material with a heaping cupful of energy and honesty.
“The Baker’s Wife” in concert plays through Feb. 10 at Music Theatre Company in Highland Park. More info here.