The Apple Tree | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Apple Tree 

Oldies can be goodies when packaged just right. The 1966 multi-Tony Award-winning The Apple Tree, a musical charmer of three separate but related playlets, depends for success upon a five-member cast with great voices and good comic timing. The Theatre Factory aims true and solidly hits the target.

The trickiest bull's-eye is delivered by leading lady Amanda Slaughter, who has to change her singing style with each character -- from naïf to vixen to cartoon heroine -- and make them all sound wonderful. She also seamlessly fulfills the varying acting and comedic demands of the three one-acts, which look at romance and temptation in different eras through the eyes of different authors.

The first, and all-round most satisfying, is based upon Mark Twain's The Diaries of Adam and Eve, a three-hanky romance with gentle but persistent comedy. Moving along to some barbaric "long time ago," the second act turns to a darker humor inspired by Frank R. Stockton's "The Lady or The Tiger," which crosses a no-win romance with jealousy. The finale is the farcical "Passionella" of cartoonist/writer Jules Feiffer, updating the Cinderella story to Hollywood (with some further post hoc updating to make it more convincingly "now").

Tree was put together (book, music and lyrics) by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, the team better known for Fiddler on the Roof, and is definitely G-rated. And though Tree produced no memorable "hit" songs, these tunes are pleasant and engaging.

A 42-year-old show could get moldy, but director Elizabeth Matthews keeps the production fresh, modest and well paced, concentrating on getting good performers who more than just fill the bill.

Opposite Slaughter, Michael Misko makes a charming romantic lead, with his strongest performance as the quirky and befuddled Adam. Michael Canali's near-operatic baritone pushes along the various narratives, most notably as the Snake. Rounding out the company in multiple roles in the latter two plays are multi-talented Deborah Bender and Jason Barnsley. Janelle Garoff deftly handles the musical direction and leads the small instrumental ensemble.

Sure, The Apple Tree is a lightweight, but when ably performed and sympathetically produced, it can deliver a good heft of entertainment.


The Apple Tree continues through Oct. 12. The Theatre Factory, Trafford. 412-374-9200 or



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