and Aaron Benham,
Directed by Courtney Crouse
Musical arrangements by Aaron Benham
Choreography by Christopher Logan
Produced by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
At No Exit Cafe, Chicago
They’re playing his songs – darn well, too! This original revue is slick, smart and engaging
You may not know who MARVIN HAMLISCH (1944-2012) was but you do know many of his songs. “The Sting, ” “The Way We were, ” “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” – sound familiar? This versatile composer/conductor/pianist wrote for seven musicals, 32 films. He was among only a dozen folks to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards and in 1974 he won three Oscars in one night (one for The Sting and two for The Way We Were). Hamlisch was a prolific composer, conductor, and a talented pianist whose life was music both creating and performing. He was able to nimbly create sophisticated music with an assortment of lyricists including–Tim Rice, Craig Carnelia, Howard Ashman, Carole Bayer Sager, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Ed Kleban, David Zippel, and Howard Liebling.
Hamlisch’s style contained reflective ballads, bittersweet laments as well as witty whimsical tunes with many haunting questioning songs. Serious, even contemplative, tunes rolled out from his piano. His sweet and often ironic tunes graced and underscored most emotional moods making Marvin Hamlisch an important composer from the late 20th century.
The artists at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre sure have the key to making musical revues work. The performers don’t just walk out with a mic in hand and sing – no mics here ever! As in all revues at Theo Ubique, projection and articulation and the ability to “sell” a song is the hallmark of their revues. With A MARVIN HAMLISCH SONGBOOK, Courtney Crouse and Aaron Benham with the help from choreographer Christopher Logan, have created a fluid, engaging and well sung tribute to Hamlisch’s genius. Besides selecting a 29 song sampling from Hamlisch’s songbook, the order and transitions including tunes from various films and musicals to create and enhance a mood worked wonderfully.
Of course, to make that happen, the cast must contain talented singers. Caleb Baze, Sarah Larson, Patrick Byrnes, Garrett Lutz, Stephanie Hansen and Sarah Wasserman were equal to the challenge. “If You Remember Me” is sweetly delivered by Caleb Baze. Sarah Larson nails “Rita’s Tune” and Patrick Byrnes examines “If You Really Knew Me.” Garrett Lutz and Stephanie Hansen combine to land “When You’re in My Arms.” Sarah Larson and Sarah Wasserman join Garrett in the telling “That’s How I Say Goodbye” heard in the show’s Chicago tryout but cut from The Goodbye Girl on Broadway. One of the delights of this revue was the tribute to A Chorus Line with “One.” The clever set-up that has the women singing terrific harmonies to “The Way We Were” and the men singing “What I Did For Love” showcased Hamlisch’s two greatest hits.
Among the clever song organization was pianist Aaron Benham’s entr’acte where he blends Hamlisch’s ode to Scott Joplin from the movie The Sting with other Hamlisch songs. The fun old pop hit from a 21 year old Hamlisch, “Sunshine, Lollypops & Rainbows (by Lesley Gore) to his glowing “Nobody Does It Better” from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, we hear and see six young talents belt their songs brilliantly as they create rich harmonies in various combinations from duets to sextets.
The sheer variety of songs will fit any mood from goofy fun to serious contemplative and from familiar classics to smart obscure power ballads give all tastes something to enjoy. Both Hamlisch fans those unfamiliar with his genius will be blown away by this wonderfully staged and sung musical revue. Nobody does it better that Theo Ubique with musical revues. See this revue and you’ll agree.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed:June 5, 2015
For more info checkout the A MARVIN HAMLISCH SONGBOOK page at theatreinchicago.com
At No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago, IL, call 800-595-4849, www.theo-u,org, tickets $29 – $34, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through July 12, 2015