Camelot's 'Do I Hear a Waltz' rich in love, life, laughter and song

Venice, Italy, has been described as a dream shimmering on the water, a city of painted palaces and serene churches. It has canals instead of streets, gondolas for buses and ornate bridges for subways.

It is where Arthur Laurents set his musical "Do I Hear a Waltz?" (1965) that now graces the stage at Camelot Theatre in Talent. You are promised an evening of love, life, laughter and song.

This is a rework of his 1952 romantic comedy "The Time of the Cuckoo," with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by the then-young Stephen Sondheim in a one-time collaboration. It is here directed by Livia Genise with considerable zest.

Donald Zastoupil, set designer and scenic artist, has devised a typical pensione garden, with its lovely stonework, balconies and alcoves, shrubbery and flowers, and in particular a fountain where a smiling (or so it seems to me) gargoyle spurts water. Talk about atmosphere!

Here Leona Samish (the radiant Rene&

233; Hewitt) bursts on the scene &

a secretary and new arrival from America. She is eager and open to adventure, but disarmingly naive, as events will prove. The owner of the pensione is Signora Fioria (Livia Genise), world-wise and savvy, who discourses in song on the traits of travelers ("This Week, Americans"). She echoes the sentiments at play's end in "Last Week, Americans" as a couple of Brits show up.

We get to meet the other guests, American, of course. Eddie (Mark B. Ropers) and Jennifer (Terri Henrie) Yeager, a young couple having a rough passage while he is abroad painting on a Fulbright grant. Then there is the senior couple, Mr. and Mrs. McIlhenny (Daniel Stephens and Janeen Hilbrink), tourists with a capital T and outre attire.

Well, Leone hits the city and meets an Italian shopkeeper, named Renato Di Rossi (Bob Miner) from whom she purchases a red Venetian glass goblet. He undertakes to get her another one to match (aren't they a pair?). He captivates her with his songs, "Someone like You" and "Bargaining" &

a tour de force. Leone loses her heart. He is loaded with continental charm, but also is married with children.

Nevertheless; she is still expecting "a wonderful, mystical, magical miracle," as she sings in the hit song, "Do I Hear a Waltz?" But she is in for a jolt.

Choreographer and assistant director Audrey Flint does a fine job in the "Waltz" number, with all the whirling and wheeling. Karl Iverson, the music director, is on keyboards and accordion, with Kathy Campbell also on keyboards, and Bryan Jeffs on percussion.

Emily Ehrlich Inget's costumes have a happy holiday touch to them, though they are appropriately restrained in the case of Renato and Fioria's maid Giovanna (Rose Passione) who is anything but restrained when it comes to her love for Alfredo (Brandon Manley).

One should mention Mauro, the Italian street urchin and guide who attaches himself to Leona. Lucas Gandy is persistent and pesky but is ever ready with an okey-dokey, but at one point excels himself with "What the hell!" (learned no doubt from the American tourists). It is a role he shares with Chris Rakestraw. Rounding out the cast are Christopher Horton as Vito, Renato's son, and Kristen Newman as Mrs. Haslam, an English tourist.

Arthur Laurents may be getting on in years but is still deeply involved with theatre. He purportedly has a new play headed for Broadway, publication of his memoirs is impending and he is currently directing "Gypsy," a production in preview in New York that originated at City Center's "Encores!" series. He wrote the book for the original 1959 version with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

"Do I Hear a Waltz?" runs at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sundays through April 13. Call: 535-5250.

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