A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler / Theater

A Singer’s Notes 87: Innocence and Experience: Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman’s June Moon at the Williamstown Theatre Festival

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Nate Corddry and Rachel Napoleon in June Moon. Photo © T Charles Erickson.
Nate Corddry and Rachel Napoleon in June Moon. Photo © T Charles Erickson.


Music has no morality. It hangs around with the villains, and it blesses the good. It makes whatever you are “more.” June Moon by Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, has, like so many shows of its vintage, the ghosts of European operetta along for the ride. It is a show with no outright villains, only cardboard ones, and the good boy and girl end up together, as they must in this kind of tale. Innocents are the story. They overcome all the impossibilities. Can there be anything more difficult in the acting profession than playing an innocent well? Nate Corddry made it happen. It was not an actor’s innocence that he gave us. He gave us a musical innocence where a secret lyricism carried the day. I believed him—and I listened to him. Rachel Napoleon came close to matching Mr. Corddry’s brilliance with far less text to work with. Playing an out-and-out villain is also a thankless task. Kate MacCluggage and Holley Fain as the two sisters from hell tried valiantly in their brittle roles, with never a kind word to say. I believed them as actors, though the roles made it well-nigh impossible to hear them as human beings. There was a deus ex machina of sorts who hovered between these two worlds. David Turner listened more than he spoke, but his words healed. It seemed just right that his musical talent was the finest on stage. Christopher Fitzgerald’s Benny Fox was a beautifully heard comic turn

A kind of childlike play hovers in this script—simple, short sentences, clipped, sometimes tawdry phrases made beautiful by music, with always the sense that the music was there first, and that it would not abandon us. Sweet music stayed in the middle, never taking sides, never preaching, always insinuating, persuading, coaxing. All in all it made for a sweet comic vision, especially in the sincerity of David Turner’s Maxie and Nate Corddry’s Fred.

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