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The Ghost of Fort Niagara

Opening Shots

The Ghost of Fort Niagara at Alleyway Theatre

Neal Radice and the gang at Alleyway Theatre are getting a load of mileage out of the hokey legend that the headless ghost of an 18th-century soldier walks the grounds of the Fort Niagara State Park. Radice first heard the yarn as a schoolboy during a class trip. He revisited the story a few years ago as a possible topic for a fort-oriented theater experience for visitors to the park. Now, he’s written the book, music, lyrics, and orchestrations for The Ghost of Fort Niagara, and directed the musical’s premiere. It’s a nicely structured piece with a lot of overblown fun centered on the soap opera romance between a French lieutenant, his reluctant Native American beloved, and his insincere and drunken rival.

James Heffron plays the lovelorn lieutenant, Didier Chabot; Nicholas Lama is Gaston Houbert, his despicable competitor; and teenaged Paloma D’Auria is the object of their attentions.

The proceedings begin with Roger VanDette as an unlicensed French fur trapper singing an oversized operatic exposition. Katy Clancy plays his wife, one of the few women at the fort, who becomes confident to both girl and boy. David C. Mitchell plays the requisite captain, and Nathan Miller plays soldat and purposely unreliable witness, Lucien Dusault.

Everybody seems to be having a lot of fun as they spin this unlikely yet not altogether predictable tale. While the piece could use some adjustments, in terms of appropriate tone and comic subplot, you’ve got to give Radice credit: The guy sure understands dramatic structure. To write and produce such an evenhanded musical in a single gesture is an impressive feat. The cast is uniformly game and appealing. The show is diverting.

Pictured right, top: Actor Tom Owen visits with Katy Clancy, who stars as Genevieve, and James Heffron, who stars as the good lieutenant. Middle: Author, composer, lyricist, orchestrator Neal Radice with Roger VanDette, who plays Silvain, and Nicholas Lama, who plays the bad lieutenant. Bottom: Paloma D’Auria, who plays star-crossed love interest Halona, with Alleyway publicist Joyce Stilson, and Nathan Miller, who plays Lucien.