Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Conceived by Walter Bobbie
Directed & Choreographed by Kevin Bellie
Music Director Eugene Dizon
Slick, smooth and well sung Rodgers & Hammerstein revue a stunning success
If their production of A Grand Night For Singing is any indication of the quality of shows that the Mercury Theater, under the leadership of L Walter Stearns, will present -then Wow! – the Mercury Theater will be the destination for fine Equity musical theatre. We can anticipate such show as Barnum, The Color Purple and The Christmas Schooner to complete their new subscription series.
A Grand Night For Singing is the perfect choice to launch a run of originally produced Broadway musicals at the Mercury Theater. It is a stylish revue of the amazing songbook of Rodgers and Hammerstein conceived by Walter Bobbie in 1993. It is a romantic songfest that presents the R & H select songs in a new context that highlights romantic relationships. We hear songs from Carousel, Oklahoma!, The King and I, South Pacific, Cinderella and The Sound of Music as well as tunes form lesser-known shows like Allegro, Me and Juliet, State Fair, Pipe Dream, and Flower Drum Song. This journey takes us from youthful infatuation to touching and, ofeten hilarious, complexities of commitment and marriage, to parenthood and the power of love and romance.
This new context highlighted Hammerstein’s clever lyrics as the cast of five ‘sold’ each number most effectively. Rodgers’ music never sounded better than performed by conductor Elizabeth Doran on piano, with Laurel Hummerstein on cello, Jennifer Ruggieri on harp with Lindsey Williams on percussion and Anthony parsons on woodwinds completed with Sam Filip on bass. The harp add a lushness to the score. This orchestra made exquisite music that Rodgers would have enjoyed.
Director Kevin Bellie, the multi-Jeff Award director and choreographer, cast this revue with singers who can act and dance making this revue much more than singers standing an belting out a tune. Rather, each number was presented in a romantic or humorous or profound style depending on the song’s theme.
From the opening medley, Robert Hunt, Stephen Schellhardt, Marya Grandy, Leah Morrow and Heather Townsend blended movement, dance, comedy, and profound emotions into the R & H songbook giving the revue a smart, creative flare seldom seen in a revue. We see the girls and the boys playfully flirting with songs like “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” (Oklahoma!) to the comic “Don’t Marry Me.” (Flower Drum Song) to the girls cutely singing “Many A New Day” (Oklahoma!)/”Wash that Man” (South Pacific). The ensemble nails the jazz-infused “Honey Bub” (South Pacific). There are duets and solos that gave each of the five their spot to shine.
Robert Hunt soars with “We Kiss In A Shadow” (The King and I); Marya Grandy nails “If I Loved You” (Carousel); while Heather Townsend wonderfully sings “It Might As Well Be Spring,” Stephen Schellhardt is profound in “Love Look Away; (Flower Drum Song) and Leah Morrow comically sings “The Gentleman Is A Dope” (Allegro).
The blend of dancing and comedy, especially in the comic turn of “Shall We Dance” (The King and I) and the 1940’s swing.jazz arrangements added depth and variety to the revue. This show moves along and the orchestra catapults us into the R & H songbook most effectively. Robert Hunt soars into “This Nearly Was Mine” (South Pacific) and, of course, the cast sings the title song that , indeed, made for a “Grand Night For Sing” (State Fair).
It is refreshing to hear songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein presented in a romantic motif giving then a fresh meaning proving their universality. Come to the Mercury Theater to enjoy the genius of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II presented in a slick, tuneful manner. This revue is among the finest revues I’ve ever seen! Don’t miss it.
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For more info checkout the A Grand Night For Singing page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, 773-325-1700, www.mercurytheaterchicago.com, tickets $25 – $59, Thursdays at 2 & 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through March 10, 2013