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Bob Goepfert Reviews "Front Page Flo" At Adirondack Theatre Festival

A scene from "Front Page Flo" at ATF
Adirondack Theatre Festival
A scene from "Front Page Flo" at ATF

GLENS FALLS - “Front Page Flo,” a new musical presented by Adirondack Theatre Festival in Glens Falls, is almost relentless in its mission to offer the audience a good time.  If you can’t find something to enjoy in this production, you aren’t trying.

“Front Page Flo” is loaded with music.  There are over 30 songs and reprises, including a couple of tunes that will stay in your head after the show is over.   The dancing is extravagant.  

Though tap dominates, it also includes swing, a Charleston and even a ballet.   The cast is large and talented.  The set is terrific and the eight-piece orchestra excellent.

What’s not to like?  Oh, yeah.  It also has an over-padded book that is not only silly, it’s a lot more complicated than it needs to be.  Though the book will limit the show from moving on to bigger and better things, the problems are not a hinderance to enjoying the show for what it is. As of now, it is a work with potential that provides an extremely entertaining night of theater. 

“Front Page Flo” has at least three plot lines.  One is the hunt for a Soviet spy who, immediately after World War II, is trying to infiltrate a major newspaper to control the minds of Americans.   The other is a potential romance between Flo, the star reporter and her editor, Frank.  The third revolves about the cleaning woman, Emma, who is the prime suspect to be the spy, and her trying to find the child she gave up at birth.   

No single thread is that interesting and often the stories get neglected and the play goes off on a tangent.  

Fortunately, the usual reason we get distracted is because of great song and dance numbers, which are always well done, happy and performed with energy and skill.  

The cast seems willing to dance themselves to the point of exhaustion to please the audience.   Indeed, the show opens with three individual numbers performed almost as a single dance sequence - all to tap.  It’s at least 15-minutes long and for most shows it would be the high point of the evening. But choreographer-director, George Pinney, keeps trying to top himself, and sometimes does.  Clearly the show has been cast for dancers, and the talent on stage is remarkable.

But this doesn’t mean the performers cannot sing.  Natalie Storrs as Flo and Joshua Israel as Frank both have fine voices and dominant stage presences.   The problem with the pair is that for legitimate reasons they never seem to be a couple destined for each other.  When an audience doesn’t care about the romance at the center of the story, that insincerity bleeds over the entire production.  

The characters who do win our hearts are the second leads.  Janie Johnson as Zelda and Caleb Novell as Logan are the cub reporters who almost steal the show.  Their enthusiasm and innocence are refreshing in a show that seems manufactured to the point that it becomes aloof.  Indeed, as the creators do the rewrites, which are urgently needed, they might consider Zelda and Logan being the center of the story, with Flo and Frank as a side bar.  

At this point the creators seem to have not figured out the role of Brett, the owner of the newspaper.  The character seems to drift in and out of the story so as to figure in the show ending reveal.  A charming performance by Jack Doyle indicates there is much more potential for the man. Christine Tisdale is also effective as Emma, who is also little more than a plot device.

The most theatrical character is Carmencita, the femme fatale who is given a vivid portrayal by Lana Gordon.   The large cast is also stocked with talent.  Keep an eye on the ensemble, most of whom get their own special moment to shine – and do so with aplomb.

“Front Page Flo” is throwback theater.  It’s refreshing fun that will only get better.

It’s at Adirondack Theatre Festival through August 9.   Tickets and schedule information at 518-480-4878, or atfestival.org

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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