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THEATER REVIEW: "Meet Me In St. Louis"

“Meet Me In St. Louis” is remembered mostly for Judy Garland’s star turn in the 1944 blockbuster MGM film. The show, (with a book by Hugh Wheeler and music by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane) moved to the Broadway stage in 1989, where it was nominated for four Tonys.

Welk Resorts Theatre presents “Meet Me In St. Louis” through Jan. 2016 at their Escondido location.

“Meet Me” takes us back to the turn of the American 20th century, a much slower time without cars or computers but with the promise of mechanization and capital-P Progress.

Here, in 1903 St. Louis, the well-to-do Smith family – headed by father Alonso (Eric Hellmers) and mother Anna (Wendy Waddell) – awaits the excitement that the 1904 World’s Fair will bring.

Of course, mom and dad aren’t nearly as excited as the kids: four girls – Agnes (Katelyn Katz), Tootie (Maxine Sutton), Esther (Chelsea Emma Franko) and Rose (Sarah Errington), and college-bound son Lon (Fisher Kaake). Also in the household is sassy Irish housekeeper Katie (Susan E.V. Boland).

But life goes on, and eldest daughter Rose is waiting for phone call (and hoping it’s a proposal) from son-of-wealth Warren Sheffield (Drew Grant). And younger sister Esther is trying to catch the fancy of next-door neighbor John Truitt (Luke Monday).

The show has some nice, though mostly unremarkable music. The best-known (aside from the title song) is probably “The Trolley Song,” which many people still associate with Garland.

The cast is terrific. Franko is a fine actress with a huge, luscious voice who does Esther proud. Her love interest for the night, Luke Monday, also has a beautiful voice; I wish he’d had more to sing.

Errington and Boland are excellent as Rose and the fiery Katie. Kaake leads the way on “The Banjo” (“it’s a gateway straight to romance”), one of the terrific dance numbers. Hellmers and Waddell are fine as the Smith parental unit.

There isn’t a lot of plot or drama here, though there is a fair amount of consternation when Alonso comes home one day to announce that he’s been promoted and the family is moving to New York. But this too will be resolved nicely and unsurprisingly.

The best thing about this show (aside from the fine major cast) are two dance numbers wonderfully choreographed by Karl Warden.

There was only one problem with the production on opening night: it seems they haven’t quite worked out the kinks in the new sound system, which was set way too high. This should be easy to fix.

“Meet Me In St. Louis” is an old-fashioned musical lacking the bite and edge that is expected in musicals these days, but if you’re in the mood for a pleasant story and a fine cast, give this a whirl.

The details

“Meet Me In St. Louis” plays through January 31, 2016 at Welk Resort San Diego, 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido.

Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 1 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 1 and 8 pm

Tickets: (888) 802-7469 or welkresorts.com