A Room With A View is the kind of romantic musical that audiences a couple of generations ago would have loved, a charming tale that cozily couches its underpinnings of suppressed passion and self-awakening in otherwise merry Edwardian mannerisms. Even its nude scene – three fellas splish-splashing in a hot-spring bath – is as benign as it is good-natured.
The Old Globe Theatre’s production of a musical by Marc Acito (book) and Jeffrey Stock (music and lyrics) based on the 1908 novel by E.M. Forster is impeccable in its costuming (nod to Judith Dolan) and scenic design (ditto Heidi Ettinger), and a few nifty special effects (rainfall and an exploding tea kettle to name two) heighten the multisensory fun. That there seems little at stake, dramatically speaking, in the story of Englishwoman Lucy Honeychurch (Ephie Aardema) is mostly mitigated by all the trappings. Yes, we understand that the sensuality of Florence and its demonstrative love for la vita and romance intoxicates Lucy. And yes, we perceive easily enough that life back in Windy Corner, England, pales by comparison, in spite of Lucy’s being surrounded by her doting (though sometimes irritating) family. We know what lovestruck Lucy ultimately will do when making the choice between stuffed-shirt Cecil Vyse (Will Reynolds) and free-spirited George Emerson (Kyle Harris). With A Room With A View, it’s more about the journey than the destination.
Jeffrey Stock’s score inhabits nearly every bit of the journey, backgrounding dialogue as well as teeing up cast members for big numbers (Lucy’s “A Room With A View” and “Ludwig and I,” George’s revealing “I Know You,” Charlotte’s confessional, rather tacked-on “Frozen Charlotte”). The ragtime-inflected “Splash” is the most memorable tune, but as much for its crowd-pleasing romp in the raw as anything else.
Aardema and Harris are pleasant as the lead lovers, but they can’t match Glenn Seven Allen (he of the impressive operatic tenor) and Jacquelynne Fontaine as their Italian counterparts and inspiration. One look at this pair and you’ll want to book your trip to Tuscany, get struck by love yourself, get a room, and who cares if it has a view?
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat