‘A Grand Night for Singing’ at Apollo Civic Theatre

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A Grand Night for Singing at the Apollo Civic Theatre is a grand night of entertainment from a small ensemble cast singing intricate arrangements of Rodgers and Hammerstein classics in quirky and humorous pairings.

Emily Santy, Nick Graves, Noah Gross, and Keith Shifflett. Photo by Joey Thorne.
Emily Santy, Nick Graves, Noah Gross, and Keith Shifflett. Photo by Joey Thorne.

Wonderfully directed and musically directed by J.D. Wine, A Grand Night for Singing is a musical revue with virtually no dialogue, featuring seven performers who sing the songs as themselves, not characters, in a continuous, flowing fashion.

The revue, conceived by Walter Bobbie, with musical arrangements by Fred Wells of songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein trunk, uses different combinations and arrangements to great effect, ranging from powerful, traditional solos to uniquely imagined trios, quartets and full ensemble numbers. A lovely factor about the production is the use of songs from lesser known Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, including Allegro, Me and Juliet, and Pipe Dream, in addition to classic numbers from the musical theater chestnuts Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and The King and I.

 Chaste Martin. Photo by Joey Thorne.
Chaste Martin. Photo by Joey Thorne.

Chaste Martin gives an outstanding performance. Her solo “If I Loved You” in a deep, sultry alto was extraordinary and she shared a lovely moment with Noah Gross during her number “When You’re Driving Through the Moonlight.” Martin could use more stage time in the production for her exceptional talents. Emily Santy is charming as a comedic ingenue. Her numbers “A Wonderful Guy” and “It’s Me” in a dainty soprano were comedic and zany.

Keith Shifflett is hilarious in his role as the often quirky comedic relief. His facial expressions and often off-the-wall mannerisms were very enjoyable and he displayed an impressive contrast in the more dramatic numbers “This Nearly Was Mine” and “All At Once You Love Her.” Nick Graves does an awesome job as an awkward comedic relief in some songs. His performance singing and accompanying himself on the guitar during “The Surrey with the Fringe on the Top” at the top of the show was very impressive.

Keith Shifflett and Sheree Cipicchio. Photo by Peter Thorne.
Keith Shifflett and Sheree Cipicchio. Photo by Joey Thorne.

Sheree Cipicchio gives a beautiful performance. Her solos “So Far” at the top of the show and “Something Wonderful,” towards the end of the show, were gorgeous and displayed a powerful voice. Caitlin Cutright is very funny and dry-witted in her featured number “The Gentleman is a Dope,” but had intonation issues at several points during the sho

Shifflett and Graves have a great chance to showcase their comedic talents in the number “Don’t Marry Me,” performed to female cast members Santy and Cipicchio. The song was one of the best group moments in the production.

Noah Gross was phenomenal in his role as a more traditional romantic lead. His performance of “Maria” was gorgeous, and the unique, precise staging of the famous nun-choir number from The Sound of Music, instead presented here as a romantic solo Gross performs about his love interest, Martin, was excellent. Gross also displayed wonderfully poignant acting abilities as the guy who got left behind, singing about the girl who got away, in the number “That’s the Way It Happens” with Santy.

Choreography by Ed Conn is a nice mixture of simple, traditional musical theater moves for several of the trios and quintets and lovely, sweeping waltzes for many of the full cast dance sections. An odd blocking choice involved many of the (for a show this size) “large” ensemble numbers with three or four people occurring on the two downstage platforms, instead of the main stage, which constricted some of the movement and didn’t seem to utilize the vast amount of unused stage space on the main stage. Some sound issues also occurred throughout the production, with a majority of the microphones not getting turned on at the beginning of performer’s solo lines.  I am sure this will be resolved before the next performance.

The cast provided their own costumes, assisted by Barb Gross, and they make a lovely mix of formal wear in various shades of red, blue, white and black. The set, designed by Rebecca Hutchcraft and Christal Miller, is minimal, consisting of raised platforms in various primary colors at center stage and a few brightly colored furniture pieces on the platforms stage left and right. The star drop background used in the opening and closing scenes and a few scattered songs throughout the show, provided a gorgeous effect on the large stage. Lighting, also designed by Rebecca Hutchcraft, was very well suited to each musical number and subtly changed to a great effect during some of the more intimate and emotional solos.

Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

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A Grand Night for Singing plays through September 20, 2015 at Apollo Civic Theatre – 128 East Martin Street, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. For tickets, call the box office at (304) 263-6766, or purchase them at the door.

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