“Grand Hotel” is an offbeat masterpiece of musical theatre with vibrant characters, intriguing sub-plots and a powerful ensemble of performers. If you’ve never seen a performance of this unique show, simply find your way to the Maine State Music Theatre to experience this rare treat.
The show is set in Berlin, Germany – circa 1928. It is the era of free spirited merriment and the “Grand Hotel” is an international crossroads playing host to a complex array of visitors. Each comes to the hotel with lives damaged by poverty, illness, thievery and despair, all hoping to find a new life in the walls of this grandest of hotels.
There’s lots to experience here starting with the retired army doctor, Otternschlag (John-Charles Kelley), seen injecting himself with morphine to chase away the memories of war. Otternschlag serves as a narrator commenting on the comings and goings of each hotel guest.
In far contrast, there’s MSMT Artistic Director Charles Abbott portraying Otto Kringelein, a dying Jewish bookkeeper, hoping to find one last bit of glory by staying at the lavish hotel.
A down on his luck Baron (Gregg Goodbrod) with a trail of unpaid debts is more than willing to steal and lie to get what he wants in the world. His life takes a different path after falling in love with an older woman, Elizaveta (Krissy Raymond), a fading prima ballerina who has lost her passion for dance, in spite of encouragement from her confidante, Raffaela (Marie Pressman) and her promoter, Sandor (Anthony Teixeira).
And the last of the guests is Flaemmchen (Jennifer Rae Beck), a bright eyed blonde who does typing to pay the bills while pursuing her real dream, to be a star in Hollywood. She meets a conniving businessman, Preysing (Ed Romanoff) and is drawn into his evil web.
If these stories aren’t interesting enough, there’s a whole sub plot about the common laborers at the hotel who face hard work and little pay to support the whims and wishes of the rich guests and the money hungry Concierge (Curt Dale Clark.)
Standouts in this piece are Abbott as the mild mannered accountant, Otto. He has a charming voice and is blessed with the most touching scenes of the show especially the musical number, “Who Couldn’t Dance With You?” (It is great to see Abbott on stage once again. Wouldn’t it be something to see him in his trademark role as the Emcee in “Cabaret” during MSMT’s 50th anniversary season next year?)
Goodbrod, as the Baron, is blessed with “boy next door” good looks, a winning smile and a vocal range to die for. As I’ve said in other reviews, he’s quickly become an MSMT favorite.
Richmond, looking like a younger Chita Rivera, creates a soulful character with deep layers of emotion. Her rendition of “Bonjour Amour” is simply sweet.
Romanoff and Beck are convincing in their business relationship that turns bizarre.
There’s a great mix of musical styles in the show from jazz to ballads and a great scene paying homage to the 1920’s dance, the Charleston. The costumes are sharp and colorful, playing to the fun of the same time period.
Here’s a chance to see a show never before produced by MSMT with a cast that makes it a one of a kind experience.
Performances continue through August 4 with a variety of matinee and evening performances. For tickets, call 725-8769 or go online at www.msmt.org.
Dan Marois has been a theatre reviewer for the Sun Journal since 1998. He can be reached at [email protected]