‘A Tribute to the Music of Rodgers & Hammerstein & Andrew Lloyd Webber’ at Reston Community Players by Francine Schwartz

FOUR AND A HALF STARS
The Reston Community Players opened their 47th season with a rousing and well-conceived juxtaposition of iconic songs from the well-loved musicals of Rodgers & Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The popular songs were played with gusto by a group of 30 talented musicians conducted by Musical Director Mitch Bassman, and sung by passionate performers Harv Lester, Jolene Vettese, Terry Barr, Tim Adams, Molly Hicks Larson, Jennifer Lambert, Ryan Khatcheressian, Maureen Rohn, Joshua Redford, Jaclyn Young, and Lisa Anne Bailey. (At our performance, Lambert and Rohn ably filled in for Molly Hicks Larson).

Harv Lester, Terry Barr, Ryan Khatcheressian  and Tim Adams Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

Harv Lester, Terry Barr, Ryan Khatcheressian and Tim Adams Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

On Saturday, October 11th, the music of Rodgers & Hammerstein delighted us, starting with the “Carousel Waltz,” that displayed the beautiful playing we would hear all night from the extraordinary orchestra. I especially enjoyed the lush playing of violinists Betty Brody, Suzanne Murray, Concertmaster Brendan Slocumb, and Kelley Williams.

The singing started with the hilarious “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” from South Pacific, sung tongue-in-cheek by Harv Lester, Terry Barr, Ryan Khatcheressian, and Tim Adams, who reminded me of the a cappella group Straight No Chaser.

Next, Maureen Rohn’s lilting soprano befitted another South Pacific classic “A Wonderful Guy,” and transported us back to a glamorous yet quaint era that many in the audience could relate to, and if not, they got a historical perspective of a time when a women could boast openly that she “enjoyed being a girl.”

Jaclyn Young singing, "I Enjoy Being a Girl" from 'Flower Drum Song.' Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

Jaclyn Young singing, “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from ‘Flower Drum Song.’ Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

Indeed, later in the show, Saturday’s audience clapped the loudest for Jaclyn Young’s “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” from Flower Drum Song. The charming ingénue wiggled her hips and cocked her head with perfect comedic timing as she sang:

“I’m strictly a female female
And my future I hope will be
In the home of a brave and free male
Who’ll enjoy being a guy having a girl . . . like . . . me.”

All the women were wonderful. They had vastly different singing styles and their pretty floor-length evening dresses accentuated it even as the lights on the scrim behind the orchestra provided a complimentary backdrop interspersed with myriad of little rotating lights puncturing the ceiling for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s the “Starlight Sequence” from Starlight Express.

Harv Lester adopted a faraway look to sing “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific, with sonorous tones held to the very last bar. All the singers held their notes long and their diction was impeccable thanks to vocal coach Elisa Rosman. Adams, Khatcheressian and Lester were passionate and polished performers in their strong vocals as well as their acting. Barr was a standout for his expressive face and whimsical persona.

Moving on to Oklahoma!, Jolene Vettese, in a duet with Barr, delighted us with beautiful renditions of “The Surry With the Fringe on Top” and “People Will Say We’re in Love.”

Harv Lester singing, "Some Enchanted Evening" from 'South Pacific.' Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

Harv Lester singing, “Some Enchanted Evening” from ‘South Pacific.’ Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

The ensemble, with the addition of Jaclyn Young and Joshua Redford, joined Adams to sing a joyful “Oklahoma!” at the end of the first act. Musical Director and Conductor, Mitch Bassman had the singers take their bows with a reprise of this exuberant and distinctly American ‘anthem.’ But it was a great send-off, as Saturday’s audience practically square-danced out of the theater.

But before the happy ending, the second act featured the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber. While Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music and lyrics are like a fancy confection, Webber is known for his melancholic words and evocative melodies.

Jennifer Lambert opened with powerful renditions of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” from Evita and “Memory” from Cats. Maureen Rohn  teamed up with Khatcheressian to sing a chilling “All I Ask of You,” from The Phantom of the Opera.

Lisa Anne Bailey evoked great stage presence with her emotional “With One Look’ from Webber’s Sunset Boulevard.

My favorite performance of the night musically was “Jellicle Ball” from Cats. You could tell that the orchestra members were enjoying themselves as they performed soft swirling interludes that swelled into highly syncopated jams. Bravo!

It was a grand night for singing and musicians playing at Reston Community Players’ A Tribute to the Music of Rodgers & Hammerstein & Andrew Lloyd Webber.’ Oh what a beautiful show!

Running Time: Two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

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A Tribute to the Music of Rodgers & Hammerstein & Andrew Lloyd Webber plays through October 27, 2013 at Reston Community Players at The Reston Community Center-  2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500, or purchase them online. 

Yvonne French also contributed to this review.

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