‘The Baker’s Wife’ never gets stale
‘The Baker’s Wife’
Musicals in Concert Series, The Music Theatre Company, 1850 Green Bay Road, Highland Park
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 1-10
(847) 579-4900 or www.themusictheatrecompany.org
Updated: January 31, 2013 1:11PM
Dominic Missimi is cooking up some big plans for “The Baker’s Wife” at the Music Theatre Company of Highland Park.
Despite the fact that the show is a concert performance, there’s unlikely to be a music stand or script in sight. The Northfield resident, who has staged more than 35 musicals for the Marriott Theatre and who founded the Music Theatre Program at Northwestern University, only knows how to deliver spectacular shows.
“I’m going to make it a lot more atmospheric,” Missimi promised, “and try to give [audiences] an honest-to-God production, even though we’re only going to do it in about 10 days.” He jokingly added, “Bring on the loaves of bread.”
“I’ve always been fascinated by ‘The Baker’s Wife,’” Missimi said. That’s why he suggested the show to former student Jessica Redish, who is founding artistic director of the Music Theatre Company.
The main attraction of the show for Missimi is Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics. (Joseph Stein wrote the book.) “I have always been an enormous fan of his work. I think he’s a fabulous composer and I love his lyrics,” he declared. “I think he’s a contemporary poet.”
First created in 1976, “The Baker’s Wife,” which is based on the film “La Femme de Boulanger,” has had a difficult past and never made it to Broadway. “The creative team has doctored with it throughout its history,” the director reported. He plans to go back to the original version.
“The story is so utterly simple,” Missimi related. “An older man loves his young, gorgeous wife and he is so blinded by her love he can’t think that she can do anything wrong. Well, she does. She runs away from him and has an affair. And yet, his love is so beautiful and so forgiving, he lets her come back to him.”
Missimi further described the show as “extremely touching and very human.” And it has some wonderful songs, including the perennial favorite, “Meadowlark.”
Missimi has assembled an impressive cast, including Equity actor Peter Kevoian in the central role of Amiable, the baker.
“I am over the moon to be able to do this role and sing these songs,” Kevoian said. He noted that the character’s devotion to his young wife “is probably greater than most because he has been without love his entire life.”
Another fan of composer/lyricist Schwartz, Kevoian was introduced to a recording of the show in the 1980s, and has wanted to do the role ever since. He played the part in 2004 for a very short run, and hopes there will eventually be a large local production of it.
In the meantime, the busy actor was so excited about this staging that he is leaving the cast of “I Love Lucky Live on Stage” at Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse to do this role. (After this show, he heads to the Paramount Theatre in Aurora to star as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.”)
He is pleased with cuts Missimi has made to the book. “I think streamlining the show is important,” Kevoian said.
Kate Staiger plays Denise, the wife of the owner of the town’s cafe where much of the action takes place. “He is a bit of a misogynist so she is put upon a lot but has a good inner strength and, by the end, is able to confront him and speak her mind,” the actor related. “It’s a fun arc of a character to play.” Denise opens and closes the show.
Staiger, a former student of Missimi’s who has been out of the business for six years because she has two small children, wanted to be in the cast because, “It’s a show I’ve always loved. The music is absolutely beautiful. I’ve been singing selections from it for audition pieces. I’ve been listening to it since I was 14 or 15 years old. It’s very emotional music.”
“I think people will be surprised by the melodiousness of the score,” Kevoian added. “And they’ll really enjoy it.”