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Take Me Along, a Musical Revival, at The Irish Repertory Theatre
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Take Me Along, a Musical Revival, at The Irish Repertory Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Take Me Along
The Musical of O’Neill’s Ah Wilderness
Music & Lyrics by Bob Merrill
Book by Joseph Stein & Robert Russell
The Irish Repertory Theatre
NY, NY 10011

William Parry as Nat Miller, Donna Bullock as Essie Miller,
Dewey Caddell as Art Miller, Teddy Eck as Richard Miller,
Noah Ruff as Tommy Miller, Don Stephenson as Sid Davis,
Beth Glover as Lily Miller, Emily Skeggs as Muriel McComber,
Gordon Stanley as Dave McComber, Justin Packard as Wint,
Anastasia Barzee as Belle

Directed by Charlotte Moore
Music Direction by Mark Hartman
Choreography by Barry McNabb
Managing Director: Patrick A. Kelsey
Set Design: James Morgan
Costume Design: Linda Fisher
Lighting Design: Mary Jo Dondlinger
Sound Design: Zachary Williamson
Hair and Wig Design: Robert-Charles Vallance
Production Stage Manager: Rhonda Picou
Stage Manager: Arthur Atkinson
Press: Shirley Herz Associates
Casting: Deborah Brown
Producer: Ciarán O’Reilly

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 19, 2008

If only we could travel to a small towns as warm, colorful, and old-fashioned as 1920 Centerville on the Fourth of July in this remake of a musical about O’Neill’s one comedy, Ah Wilderness. The backdrops, sets, and costumes at The Irish Repertory Theatre could not be more storybook in style or more uplifting in ambiance. This is an All-American family with seemingly perfect parents, Nat and Essie Miller, a slightly rebellious teen-age son, Richard Miller, (who reads The Prophet and Emily Dickinson and drinks and goes to a wayward beach house with friends), a younger son, Tommy Miller, who is slightly rambunctious, and Nat’s sister, Lily Miller, who’s an impeccable and lonely schoolteacher. Art Miller, the oldest son, smokes a pipe, goes to Yale, and struts like a peacock. There’s also a ne'er do well uncle, Sid Davis, a hopeless, but lovable, alcoholic with fleeting romantic intentions toward Lily.

To round out the characters, we are introduced to Muriel McComber, the apple of young Richard’s eye, a quintessential ingénue, who is easily impressed by Richard’s poetry and literature, and her crotchety father, Dave McComber, who sees Richard’s poetry as the words of the devil. Speaking of the devil, two characters figure in the wayward beach house scene, Wint, who leads Richard astray, and Belle, a perfectly wholesome lady of the night. This is, after all, an “ideal” family tale. The play originated on Broadway in 1959 with Jackie Gleason in the role of Sid, and it played for over a year. A revival in 1985 closed on Opening Night. Charlotte Moore, Director, has imbued this current revival with energy, optimism, charm, and seamless songs. James Morgan’s sets are minimal, but the stage moves and every corner visible is plastered with posters of Fourth of July Americana. Linda Fisher’s costumes are starched, ruffled, and authentic. Even Richard’s neat-before and disheveled-after beach house attire is authentic.

Barry McNabb’s choreography is contemporary, while retaining the quaint, New England imagery, a bit of swing, tap, circle dancing, leg-kicking, and all in fun. Zachary Williamson and Mary Jo Dondlinger are busy creating fireworks and thunder, amidst twilight and sunshine, and Robert-Charles Vallance’s hair and wig designs bring us back almost a century, when men went to barber-shops and women heated the curlers. The Irish Rep added a small band, with bass, banjo, guitar, and woodwinds. The live band was just offstage near the orchestra seating, so the mood was fanciful and party-perfect. But, the highlight of this show is the repertoire of songs, sung with gusto, clarity, and lyricism. A few of my favorites were: “I Would Die” (Muriel and Richard), “Staying Young” (Nat), “I Get Embarrassed” (Sid and Lily), “Little Green Snake” (Sid), and Belle’s hilarious, drunken rant, “If Jesus Don’t Love Ya” (Jack Daniels will).

William Parry, as Nat, was masculine, nurturing, vulnerable, with a hint of rogue, and he sings well, too. Beth Glover, as Lily, showed her own level of vulnerability, but enough strength to withstand broken promises and still claim her man, whatever the consequences. Donna Bullock, in a matronly, yet still romantic role, sang, “Oh, Please” with husband, Nat. Don Stephenson, as Sid, was campy, persuasive, and charismatic, while Teddy Eck, as Richard, could have been the young O’Neill, craving for loving adventures, those found in poetry and literature a century or more ago. Eck, as Richard, was wistful and willful, and lucky, as well. Kudos to The Irish Repertory, and kudos to Merrill, Stein, Russell, and O’Neill.

Teddy Eck, William Parry, Donna Bullock
in "Take Me Along"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Emily Skeggs and Teddy Eck in "Take Me Along"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Teddy Eck and Justin Packard
in "Take Me Along"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at