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Hits, misses mark musical adaptation of ‘Merry Wives’

If you’re in the mood for a romp, scoot over to the John Houseman where “Lone Star Love or the Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas” is kicking up its boot heels.

As you enter the theater, you’re offered barbecue, cookies, lemonade and, by the time you reach your seat, interaction with half the cast.

Shakespeare’s work has survived for more than 400 years, and countless dramatic permutations from stage to film to street art. This production of “Merry Wives”—a pandering potboiler written at the request of Queen Elizabeth I who liked Falstaff—is true to that tradition of crowd-pleasing. This adaptation was conceived by John L. Haber, who wrote the music, and lyricist Jack Herrick, and delivers pure, innocent fun.

Sad to say, however, the best lines are the Bard’s, and the music, while tuneful, is at times disjointed and feels shoehorned into the plot. The Red Clay Ramblers provide the music, and it’s tuneful and engaging.

The show has no artistic pretensions, a good thing since it misses the story by a country mile, but there are fine performances by Jay O. Sanders in Falstaff role, Beth Leavel and Stacia Fernandez as the Mistresses Ford and Page, respectively, Drew McVety as Doctor Caius and Clark Thorell as Fenton, a yodeling cowboy. Thorell is the only one in the cast, however, who seems to have an appropriate sense of irony about the whole hoedown, and he’s got a great voice.

This is about as close as we’ll get to dinner theater in Manhattan, with comfort vittles to match some high-spirited, tuneful entertainment.

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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