Ever since Judy Garland sang “clang, clang, clang went the trolley…” in the 1944 MGM musical directed by Vincente Minnelli (whom she married in 1945), Meet Me In St. Louis became a canonical staple of musical theatre, famous for its many memorable musical numbers and songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, including the aforementioned The Trolley Song, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and the catchy title song.
Produced by the Victoria Operatic Society (VOS), a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that annually presents two musicals, and which was established in 1945 with the purpose of bringing top-quality live musical theatre to Victoria and supporting young performers, Meet Me In St. Louis features a highly talented cast, directed by Chris Moss, conducted by the music director Tom Mitchell, and choreographed by Katelyn MacKellen. The performance can be seen at the McPherson Playhouse, December 4th – 13th, 2015.
Francesca Bitonti, the President of VOS, stars in the role of Anna Smith, the mother of the Smith family. Angelina Robertson, whose voice rivals Judy Garland’s, plays Esther Smith, and Tori Farkas is captivating as the youngest sister Tootie Smith. Ian Capper McIntyre shows off his comedic skills an talents in the role of Grandpa.
Based on the book by Hugh Wheeler, and on Sally Benson’s “The Kensington Stories” (1941) originally published in the New Yorker, the story is set in 1903, as the upper-middle-class Smith family anticipates the opening of the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
The 17-year-old Esther has a crush on the boy next door, John. Her older sister, Rose, expects a proposal from her Yale-boyfriend Warren, who calls her long-distance from New York, but does not propose over the phone. Lon, the only brother of the Smith girls, is sent off to Princeton with a festive going-away party, where Agnes and Tootie, the youngest sisters, perform a vaudeville number with Esther. After the party, John and Esther get to know each other better, as he helps her turn down the room gaslights. The first act end with the famous Trolley Song, as John joins the whole family on an outing.
The second act opens on Halloween, as Tootie and Agnes prepare to go out trick-or-treating. When Katie, the housemaid, is left alone with Esther and Rose, she instructs them in the song and horn-pipe dance A Touch of the Irish on how best to handle romantic situations from a woman’s perspective. Mr. Smith is offered a promotion at work, but it will require the family to move to New York City. Everyone is upset by this news, not wanting to leave St. Louis. The last big social event before the family leaves St. Louis is the Christmas Ball, a very formal party, after which John proposes to Esther, but they decide they should wait some time before marrying. At home, Esther tries to comfort Tootie, who is upset about leaving St. Lousi, by singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, but it is not until Mr. Smith announces that the move is off that everyone is truly happy again. In the last scene, everyone prepares to go to the World’s Fair, as the family sings a reprise of Meet Me in St. Louis.