I must admit I approached opening night of Trinity’s world premiere of The Prince of Providence with a bit of trepidation. As a longtime resident of Providence there wasn’t much about Buddy I didn’t know. Add the pre-opening hype from the Boston Globe predicting that the play would be the next Hamilton and my own reluctance to sit one more Jekyll-and-Hyde analysis of Buddy, I was willing to subject myself to sit through one more trip down memory lane, but not too much more. But, boy, was I in for a surprise!
While Buddy’s legacy to Providence will forever be divided, there was near total unanimity among the opening crowd that this play nailed it on all levels…the acting, the pacing, the humor, the staging, the fairness…and oh, that ending. Purists will see that some theatrical license has been taken with the presentation: For example, Frank Corrente and Mickey Farina, two of Buddy’s most trusted lieutenants, are combined into a single character (Mickey Corrente). But New York actor Scott Aiello is spot-on as the Mayor, right down to his thinning hair and rotating hairpieces. He presents young Cianci as an upward mobile, anti-corruption candidate with big dreams who ekes out his first election by making a backroom deal with Democratic power broker Larry McGarry. From there, he gradually morphs into the Buddy we all know: Beloved, feared, surrounded by his lackeys, but always in his mind the champion for the City he loved.
The supporting cast helps maintain the high level of professionalism throughout the long, almost three-hour play from ever dragging. It’s a perfect blend of Trinity veterans we’ve come to know and love, complemented by some young talented add-ins, many from the superb Trinity-Brown theatrical collaborative that has so enriched the local theater scene in Providence.
The staging is from the old days. Fully engaging all four aisles, there’s music, dancing, and plenty pf laughs, one of the best of which is a hysterical ballet de deux between Sheila and Buddy after their relationship goes south. And, of course, there is the surprise ending you won’t see coming that is about as creative a theatrical denouement as I can recall.
So, it turns out the Globe was right. If you don’t have your seats by now better hustle. Congrats to the playwright George Brant for his incredible theatrical treatment of this difficult subject. Congrats to the youthful Taibi Magar for her artful, and playful direction. And thank you Trinity for presenting the “Full Buddy” in what has already become its biggest grossing show ever (except for A Christmas Carol, of course). If Trinity really wants to up their revenue, they need to find a role in A Christmas Carol for Buddy!