Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals live in our hearts with their happily-ever-after stories and popular songs. In Washington Savoyards’ production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein review called A Grand Night For Singing, I was offered a new take on classic songs from well known musicals such as Cinderella, Oklahoma, South Pacific and many others.
The stage was set with simple platforms and three musicians on stage right. The eye-catcher was a glittered blue drapery hung from the fly space. The show began with the five-person company singing “The Carousel Waltz” from Carousel, which began the night’s journey through the best of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
There were three moments where new twists on original songs that I remembered and enjoyed the most. The first was an Andrews Sisters-like version of South Pacific’s “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” sung by the female cast members, Maria Egler, Emily Levey, and Dorea Schmidt. The women jazzed up the already sassy song and belted out slick harmonies and sported cool steps. The second came in what I like to call a remix of Oklahoma’s “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’” sung by baritone Scott Russell, and the last moment was in State Fair’s “The Man I Used To Be” that contained great dancing by Egler, Levey and Nick Lehan comparable to the Andrews Sisters number. Kudos to William Yanesh for his excellent music direction.
Director Kurt Boehm did a wonderful job of providing varied staging and situations for each song on such a simple set. The blocking helped the audience picture scenes around the characters without spelling it out for them with set pieces, which placed more focus on the songs and their messages. However, although each cast member did well with holding a specific character through songs from all different contexts and situations.
It’s easy to have bigger than life reactions when performing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s material, but there is a fine line to be walked between genuine and artificial interactions between their characters. There is a problematic book, which takes away from the well-known songs and stalls the show. Most of the material in the songs speak for themselves and don’t need extra commentary on how funny or sad specific moments are supposed to be.
A Grand Night for Singing is a very entertaining and nostalgic evening in the theatre filled with great songs and a top-notch cast. You may find yourself singing and humming along. Don’t miss it!
Running Time: One 1 hour and 45 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission.
A Grand Night for Singing plays through May 6, 2012 at Washington Savoyards at Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H St, NE- in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 399-7993, or purchase them online.
Watch a video preview of A Grand Night for Singing