Theatre Three Serves Sally Soldo a Good Role in Catered Affair

Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.

For years we've waited for veteran Dallas actress Sally Soldo to get a solid starring role in a musical. She has a voice like the great Barbara Cook and can dig into a part with fierce determination. Now she at last gets a good character that fits her talent in Theatre Three's current production of the musical A Catered Affair.

As a whole, it's not a great show - weak script, repetitive melodies - but Soldo, playing opposite the strong character actor Sonny Franks as her husband, is front and center in nearly every scene. The show is an adaptation of a 1950s Paddy Chayefsky TV drama about a Bronx tenement family who've just lost a son in the Korean War. Their only daughter (played with too much pageant perkiness by newcomer Bailey Lawrence) is about to marry her well-off fiancé (Brandon Wilhelm) in a no-frills courthouse ceremony. But proud mom Aggie, played by Soldo, decides to use a financial windfall to throw a splashy ceremony and reception. It's the wedding she never had.

Conflicts over money, status and long-delayed dreams are at the heart of the rather dreary story. It's basically Marty from the women's perspective.

Songs by John Bucchino, with a book by Harvey Fierstein, never stir much emotion on their own. But Soldo and Franks connect with the material so effectively, you'll want them to stop interrupting scenes with singing. Their dramatic scenes together are the high points of an otherwise tepid production directed by Jac Alder.

Several actors in smaller roles, including Christopher Wagley as the gay uncle who gets feisty when he's dis-invited to the big wedding, sing better than they emote.

A Catered Affair continues through November 12 at Theatre Three. Call 214-871-3300.

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