Meet Me in St. Louis Book by Hugh Wheeler; songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
In theory there are only two reactions theatergoers can have to the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in Meet Me in St. Louis. If the production has been done well, one weeps, albeit with a modicum of embarrassment. In under-realized stagings, the same song can induce winces as viewers recoil from its sweetness. Curiously, by the time Bonnie Fraser, playing feisty and lovesick Esther Smith, sings this tune, neither reaction is induced. Fraser gives it a professional, yet unemotional, deliverya hallmark of Charlotte Moore's staging. As Esther and her sister Rose (Merideth Kaye Clark) work through their teen romances with boy next door John (Colin Donnell) and wealthy swain Warren (Doug Boes), one hopes for some spark, but instead finds performances reserved to the point of being prudish. Theatergoers will find more in George S. Irving's all too brief appearances as the girls' grandfather and will revel more in Danielle Piacentile and Gabrielle Piacentile's antics as the girls' siblings. Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane's songs sound great here, and generally it's hard to resist a chestnut like "The Trolley Song." However, in this ultimately disappointing production, even yuletide sentiment can jump the tracks.