The Robber Bridegroom Reviews


Griffin Theatre Company’s “The Robber Bridegroom,” which got its start at the Ravinia Festival in 1975, triumphantly returns to its city of origin. Alfred Uhry’s adaptation of Eudora Welty’s novella is a downhome, high-energy, racy good time.

Set in nineteenth-century Mississippi, the show follows wealthy planter Clemment Musgrove (Michael Pacas), who is saved from robbery and murder by thief Jamie Lockhart (Cameron Brune). Musgrove invites Lockhart to his plantation to meet his marriage-age daughter; mayhem and music ensue. Like any pioneer tale, the story is rough and bloody but the show’s dark streak keeps the country content from becoming corny.

The sharp ensemble displays the uniformly excellent singing and dancing ability as well as the comedic timing the piece requires. Standouts include Amanda Hartley as scheming step-mother Salome, Caroline Fourmy as Rosamund, the planter’s daughter who aches for romance, and Steve Best as villainous robber and aspiring kidnapper Little Harp.

Lisa Buscani (2009) "Review: The Robber Bridegroom/Griffin Theatre Company". Newcity Stage

From the outset, “The Robber Bridegroom” threatens to implode on all its homespun corn-pone goodness. But stay with it. I found myself warming to this bluegrass musical in unexpected ways. Here’s one: The show is seriously warped and absolutely Pythonesque. Who knew?

A Southern folk tale based on the novella by Eudora Welty, the story doesn’t back off from its darker elements so much as wink at them in this Griffin Theatre production. It’s a good move by Paul S. Holmquist, who has directed this thing with enough loopiness to cut all that countrified charm down to size.

There’s some local history associated with the show. An early version debuted at Ravinia Festival back in the mid-1970s, before it made its way to Broadway. (The score is by Robert Waldman; the absurdly witty book and lyrics are courtesy of “Driving Miss Daisy” playwright Alfred Uhry.) The show was generally a success, but it hasn’t been seen on Broadway since.

I would argue that “The Robber Bridegroom” is not scaled right for Broadway, anyway. The Griffin production is almost claustrophobic, and this bodes well for the kind of humor it trafficks in. Spread things out too much and you lose the tension.

A wealthy plantation owner (Michael Pacas) is befriended by legendary con man Jamie Lockhart (Cameron Brune, filling out a snug pair of trousers like nobody’s business). Caught in a trap of his own making, Lockhart winds up seducing the old man’s lithesome daughter Rosamund (Caroline Fourmy).

The story sputters a bit initially, but everything clicks into place once Amanda Hartley arrives on the scene as Rosamund’s evil stepmother.

Hartley brings to mind Stockard Channing crossed with Carol Burnett, and her bug-eyed turn as a don’t-mess-with-me schemer is something like a backwoods version of Patti Blagojevich. She is over-the-top and entirely believable, and if that’s not comedic finesse I don’t know what is.

The trick with this show, I think, is to be extremely confident about the silliness. Kyle A. Gibson’s inbred imbecile feels very close to something conjured by Michael Palin, and Michael Kingston’s singing disembodied head is both the best sight gag and the drollest performance of the night.

Nina Metz (2009) "Wit saves ‘The Robber Bridegroom’". Chicago Tribune