A Rollicking Froth of a Musical: TAP Brings “Madame Sherry” to the Stage

Now that its copyright has expired, the 1910 rollicking froth of a musical Madame Sherry has been given new life by the talented co-artistic director James Valcq at Third Avenue Playhouse. Because the show now resides in the public domain, Valcq had the freedom to take scissors to talky dialog and outdated humor, to add songs, and occasionally to rewrite. The result is a vintage theater piece that has been successfully tweaked for contemporary tastes.

“Don’t look for any deep, hidden messages in Madame Sherry,” Valcq tells audiences in his director’s notes. “The only thing it teaches us is that music and laughter are often the best medicine.”

Adam Estes (Edward) and Kaleigh Rae Gamaché (Yvonne) fall in love in "Madame Sherry," running now through Sept. 3.

Adam Estes (Edward) and Kaleigh Rae Gamaché (Yvonne) fall in love in “Madame Sherry,” running now through Sept. 3. Photo by Ed DiMaio.

The plot relies heavily on light-hearted deceptions. Edward Sherry (Adam Estes), owner of a New York dance studio, has created a fictional family to not only earn the approval of his wealthy uncle (Drew Brhel) but funding from him as well. When the benefactor unexpectedly arrives, Edward quickly casts people about him in familial roles with predictably comic results. The humorous plot is thickened with the confusions of hidden and misdirected love relationships, all of which sort themselves out by the musical’s end, as the couples stand in line for the curtain call.

The performance is like a train leaving a station, as the first act begins slowly, the musical picking up steam as it moves into the second and third acts, and arriving at its destination with the audience reluctant to depart.

The strength of the show lies in the performances of the talented actors, here a cast of troopers whose acting is fittingly a tongue-in-cheek response to the conventions of those more innocent times during the early twentieth century. But the performers especially shine as belters and hoofers, bringing new life to old songs (some of them still familiar to audiences today: “Put Your Arms Around Me Honey” and “Oh! You Beautiful Doll”) and on occasion displaying flash footwork as dancers.

Especially impressive was the soaring operatic voice of Kaleigh Rae Gamaché. Her wide-eyed innocence as a convent girl sampling the sophistication of New York delighted the audience.

And the finale of Act II featured the entire company in a wonderful choral piece.

Anna Mae Beyer (Pepita), Debra Babich (Catherine), and Anna Cline (Lulu) set a trap for Drew Brhel (Theophilus Sherry) in "Madame Sherry."

Anna Mae Beyer (Pepita), Debra Babich (Catherine), and Anna Cline (Lulu) set a trap for Drew Brhel (Theophilus Sherry) in “Madame Sherry.” Photo by Ed DiMaio.

The tap dancing of Valcq as Phillippe the janitor, and of Debra Babich as his wife, was a highlight of the show.

One of the more comic roles was that of Pepita (Anna Mae Beyer), the jilted sweetheart of Leonardo Gomez (Ryan Patrick Shaw), the son of the president of Venezuela. With her bad-girl Carmen Miranda persona, she was continually an amusing physical presence, especially with her figure of speech mangling dialog.

In his notes, Valcq also explained that at the time Madame Sherry premiered, Vaudeville stars were often cast in musicals, their own routines interpolated into the score. In that spirit, “Ciribiribin” was added to Act III, sung by Gamaché and accompanied by Valcq on the concertina.

The costuming, especially of the female cast members, evoked the spirit of those times. The bare-bones set, limited by the space of the venue, was less satisfying. Pianist Jack Forbes Wilson ably accompanied vocalists for this musical journey into the past.

Madame Sherry plays through Sept. 3 at TAP with 7:30pm Wednesday through Saturday performances; 2pm Sunday matinees; and a 7:30pm Tuesday, Aug. 30 show. For information and tickets, visit or call 920.743.1760.

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