The scintillating cast of Riverside Center Dinner Theater’s The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber almost blew the roof off when I saw this new production on Saturday, January 17, 2015. The entertaining new revue is conceived, produced, and directed by Riverside Center Dinner Theater’s Producing Artistic Director and Broadway veteran Patrick A’Hearn.
Each singer – Sara Ashley, Kelly Curtin, Chad W. Fornwalt, Sylvern Groomes, Ashlie-Amber Harris (who was just honored in this site’s Best of 2014 Honors for her dazzling performance of The Lady of the Lake in The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s Spamalot), Sheri Hayden, Andrea Kahane, Ian Lane, Darian Lunsford, and Calvin Malone had their turn or two in the spotlight showing off their pipes and gorgeous interpretations of Webber favorites.
Hayden sang a powerful of ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ and Lane did the same with “On This Night of a Thousand Stars’- both from Evita. Kahane delivered emotional renditions of “As If We Never Said Goodbye” and “With One Look” from Sunset Boulevard and Fornwalt delivered an emotional rendition of the title song from the show.
Harris sang a gorgeous interpretation of “You Made Me Think You Were In Love” from Song and Dance, a show most Webber-lovers have not heard of. Curtin hit divine high notes in “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from the very popular (and still running on Broadway after 27 years) The Phantom of the Opera.
But the loudest applause was heard after A’Hearn appeared from his lair to captivate the audience with his glorious performance of ‘Music in the Night.” It was a tour de force and it was followed by thunderous applause and ‘Bravos!’ I could go on and on about how A’Hearn stopped the show but all I will say is that it’s worth the price of admission to come and hear him perform this Webber classic. Curtin and Fornwalt ended the Phantom set with some beautiful harmonies on “All I Ask of You.”
And for me it was the softer and solo performances that I enjoyed the most.
Besides ‘Music of the Night” I was moved by Ashley and Malone’s beautiful harmonies in “Tell Me on a Sunday” from Song and Dance; Ashley and Curtin’s divine and soaring vocals in “Pie Jesu’ from “Requiem”; Malone’s emotional “‘Til I Hear You Sing” from the Phantom sequel Love Never Dies, and Harris and Hayden’s spine or paw-tingling “Memory” from Cats.
Joining these singers were a group of fabulous young singers who comprised the Children’ Choir: Angelina and Elijah Beale, Evelyn Detar, Nathan Griffin, Muggs Leone, Alexa Norbeck, Julianna Robinson, and Ethan Theriot.
Julianna’s sweet vocals were heard in the theme song from Whistle Down the Wind, which played at The National Theatre in DC in December 1996, which was a Pre-Broadway stop that never made it to Broadway. These well-trained young voices brought much power to the selections from Requiem and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’s “Jacob and Sons” and the hand-clapping, foot stompin’ “Light at the End of the Tunnel” from Webber’s roller skating musical Starlight Express.
The production looked like it had just arrived from Las Vegas with stunningly beautiful and colorful dresses and gowns created by Costume Designer Gaye Law – a fashion show within a musical. And joining the singers were two exceptional dancers Shawna Walker Halliman and Bo Price who wowed the audience with their athleticism and uplifting moves.
Anthony Cantrell supplied the exquisite lighting design, while Benjamin Burke designed the multi-tiered set which utilized many steps and the projections which included some fascinating news reels.
Kudos to Musical Director Anthony Smith and his talented group of instrumentalists: Mr. Smith conducting and playing on keyboards;Assistant Conductor Garrett Jones also on keyboards;Jim Ford on trumpet;Jason Labrador on violin;David Long on drums, and Joanna Smith on Bass. They never once drowned out the singers and that’s also due to the exceptional sound by Sound Engineer Billy Timms.
There are six weeks left in the Riverside Center run and I strongly recommend that you take the entire family to see The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. It’s a night in the theatre you and your family will never forget!
Dinner was served before the performance and my guest and I had a wonderful entree of teriyaki-glazed salmon with sticky rice and salad and a “to-die-for” cheesecake and chocolate cake for dessert.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, including a 20-minute intermission.
Riverside Center Dinner Theater’s The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber plays through March 11, 2015 at Riverside Center Dinner Theater-95 Riverside Parkway, in Fredericksburg, VA. For reservations, call (540) 370-4300.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s website.