THE CUBAN AND THE REDHEADBook, Music, and Lyrics
by Robert Bartley and Danny Whitman
Directed and Choreographed by Robert Bentley
Music Direction and Additional Arrangements by Christopher D. Littlefield
Scenic Design by Amelia Bransky
Lighting Design by Dan Schoedel
Costume Design by Bruce Coleman
Props Design by John Harvey
Wig and Makeup Design by Michael B. Moore
Sound Design by Jason Biggs
Associate Choreography by Joshua Buscher-West
Co-Coreography by Adam Roberts
Desi Arnaz --- Storm Lineberger
Junior --- Mat Ransdell Jr.
Lolita ---Sheila D. Rose
Busby Berkeley --- Clint Gilbert
Barbara Pepper --- Robin Clayton
Lucille Ball --- Leslie Stevens
Gladys --- Myiesha Duff
Carole Lombard --- Janelle Lutz
Mother Kelly --- Stephen Bates
Larry Hart --- Clint Gilbert
Trudy --- Sarah Comley Caldwell
Ackerman --- Dan Servetnick
Ensemble --- Mattie Lillian Davis, Mary Jerome, Logan Lane, Beth Lipton, Quinn Moran, Rodney Morris, Jonah Munroe, Kelley Norman, Kimberly Pine, Elizabeth Piper, Ben Schroth, Joshua Sherman, Carlow Strudwick, Keith J. Warren, D. Aidan Wright
The Band: Christopher D. Littlefield ---Conductor/Piano
Mark Miller --- Keyboards
Peggy Honea --- Bass
Michael E. McNicholas --- Percussion
Reviewed Performance: 9/15/2018
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Storm Lineberger, who plays Desi Arnaz, is a powerhouse, and the best thing about the show. Fortunately it’s his story, and so we spend quite a bit of time in his company. He somehow manages to capture Desi’s essence without making it look like caricature. He has a very strong, legitimate voice, obviously well trained, that he knows how to use to best effect. The show finally begins to come alive, and feel like an exciting experience, when he breaks into the “Dance of Desperation” musical number midway into the first act. His moments on stage are always strong, and never disappointing.
Leslie Stevens plays Lucille Ball, and her performance finally comes together at the very end of the show when she dons the familiar Lucy red hair, overcoat and hat, and becomes a recognizable Lucy character. Prior to that point, despite her strong singing, acting and comic timing, I never quite felt connected to her character. Ms. Stevens is obviously a very talented and experienced professional, and I think a lot of this has to do with the script in its present form. After the show I couldn’t remember her having a solo number except “Let ‘Em Laugh” at the very end. Duets, yes, ensemble numbers, yes, but I just couldn’t think of a solo that expanded her character for us. Looking back at the program, I find that she does sing one in the first act called “I’ve Got No Time” which I really cant recall. She’s a strong presence in the show and her duets with Desi work really well, but as currently written, her character just doesn’t resonate with us the way Desi’s does.
Local favorite Janelle Lutz is Carole Lombard, and brings the house down with her two solo numbers. Ms. Lutz can always be counted on to deliver an outstanding performance both as an actor and a singer. The Carole Lombard character is obviously an inspiration for Lucille Ball, and serves as a mentor in some sense, but in this script, the two Lombard musical numbers, wonderful as they may be, have little or nothing to do with the story being told, and don’t seem to advance or illuminate the plot. Keep the character, but perhaps lose the two wonderful songs.
Matt Ransdell Jr as Junior makes a strong impression with a solid supporting performance that plays well with Mr. Lineberger’s Desi. The first number in the second act is listed in the program as Junior singing “First You Play the Roxy.” Saturday night, when I saw the show, that number had been cut, so I’m assuming that the show is still making changes. Sheila D. Rose, Clint Gilbert, Robin Clayton, Myiesha Duff, Stephen Bates, Sarah Comley Caldwell and Dan Servetnick all get their moment to shine, playing multiple roles. The Ensemble is also strong, dancing and singing with great energy and enthusiasm. That includes Mattie Lillian Davis, Mary Jerome, Logan Lane, Beth Lipton, Quinn Moran, Rodney Morris, Jonah Munroe, Kelley Norman, Kimberly Pine, Elizabeth Piper, Ben Schroth, Joshua Sherman, Carlos Strudwick, Keith J. Warren, and D. Aidan Wright.
Scenic Design by Amelia Bransky, essentially a back stage set, works perfectly well for the show, turning and rearranging itself scene by scene. After her absolutely killer design for the Dallas Theater Center’s Frankenstein, however, I really was expecting something a little more inspired. Her design works, it just doesn’t excite. Bruce Coleman created 160 separate costume looks for the show! As per usual, his costumes are attractive and help illustrate who the character is for the audience. I especially liked the copper colored costume for Carole Lombard’s big musical number in the second act.
Dan Schoedel knocks it out of the park with his lighting design for the show. Constantly changing to accentuate moments, establish mood with color and intensity, and put the focus where it needs to be, his lighting is a highlight of the evening. Prop Design by John Harvey, Wig and Makeup Design by Michael B. Moore, and Sound Design by Jason Biggs all contribute greatly to the overall success of the production. Music Direction and additional arrangements by Christopher D. Littlefield are especially strong. The band sounds great, and the singers are obviously well coached.
Robert Bartley directed and choreographed the show, with Joshua Busher-West listed as Associate Choreographer, and Adam Roberts as Co-Choreographer. Mr. Bartley is also credited as writer of the book, music, and lyrics, along with Danny Whitman, who is also responsible for the vocal arrangements. As director, Mr. Bartley has set a crisp pace (except for the scene changes which need to be somehow better integrated into the show) and knows how to move people around the stage, and take the moments when they come. As Choreographer, he works with Mr. Buscher-West and Mr. Roberts to create some really exciting and compelling dance sequences. The percussion number, with everyone beating on pots and pans, is thrilling!
While many of the scenes come together just fine, as writers of the book for the show, Mr. Bartley and Mr. Whitman still have some work to do in creating a tight, entertaining story that will continually engage an audience coming to the experience wanting to know more about Lucy and Desi, and eagerly anticipating their story. The very top of the show is confusing with a very short scene involving Desi, followed by a scene change that takes as long as the scene did, and it takes quite a while to feel drawn in, and become engrossed with what is happening. The introduction of Lucy’s character is not as clear and dynamic as it could be, and it takes some time to even figure out who she is. Their story is worth telling, and the bones of that story are there, it just needs trimming and tightening. Musically, Bartley and Whitman have put together a diverse and exciting score. Heart-throbbing Cuban rhythms, interesting and lovely solos and duets, and exciting chorus numbers. The “Dance of Desperation” and “Dance With Me” work really well, and “A Cuban Cigar” is a lot of fun.
Pegasus Theatre is to be strongly commended for giving the DFW audience a chance to see this work in progress. The Cuban and the Redhead is fun, in spite of its length, with a great title, and interesting because we care about the two leads, and feel like we know them. Performances are outstanding, production values are top-notch, and we do experience the expected pay-off at the end. Continued tinkering could make this a successful show that many theater companies would enjoy presenting, and audiences would enjoy experiencing. If you loved Lucy, you’ll love seeing this show.
The Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts
2351 Performance Dr.
Richardson TX 75082
Final Performance on September 30th, 2018
Ticket Prices: Thursday - $29
Friday - $39
Saturday Matinee - $39
Saturday Evening - $44
Sunday Matinee - $34
Child/Student/Senior discount $10 off. S.T.A.G.E. discount ½ off.
For tickets call (972) 744-4650 or go online to: