Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II have been called the greatest writing partnership of the 20th century. Their work spans from 1943 to 1959 and includes some of the most well-known Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and their final collaboration, The Sound of Music.
NextStop Theatre Company’s most recent production, A Grand Night for Singing, which opened this weekend, is a revue of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s works and includes many song favorites from their hits, as well as numbers from their lesser known, yet still successful, shows such as The Flower Drum Song and State Fair. The idea was conceived by Walter Bobbie, using a simple script to weave the songs together, and opened on Broadway in 1993.
Scenic Designer and Producing Artistic Director, Evan Hoffmann, has created a charming cabaret-style set. Dark red tablecloths cover several cocktail tables (three of which the audience are welcome to sit at) and a matching red sofa takes up center stage. The bar is located in the upstage left area so that the audience can mingle until the show begins. And on the upstage right side of the stage hangs a gorgeous, red curtain.
Adding to the ambience is soft and inviting lighting design by Jason Arnold. And situated upstage, between the bar and the curtain, is the live orchestra, conducted by Elisa Rosman, who is also the Music Director for the production.
This show is all about the music, and does not disappoint. Five performers are featured: Matthew Hirsch (HH Award), Katherine Riddle, Sara Anne Sillers, Karen Vincent (HH Award), and Marquise White. They sing over 30 songs, from favorites “Surrey With The Fringe On Top” (Oklahoma) and “Shall We Dance?” (The King And I) to the less-familiar but delightful “Don’t Marry Me” (Flower Drum Song) and “The Man I Used To Be” (Pipe Dream).
Multiple-time Helen Hayes nominee, Michael J. Bobbitt, serves as Director and Choreographer. The style varies according to the number but the movement is consistently clean and sharp (enhanced by Arnold’s lighting). The actors stand on chairs, run-up stairs, snuggle on the sofa, and waltz across the floor, at times engaging someone from the audience to join in the dance.
If you have never seen a revue, then you should know that the songs have been specially arranged for the production to incorporate the whole cast, instead of being a series of solos and duets. The first act finale number, “Some Enchanted Evening” (South Pacific), has soaring harmonies that build as the number progresses, and another fantastically fun number which incorporated the whole cast was “Kansas City” from Oklahoma, usually sung by Will Parker.
Rodgers and Hammerstein fans will be in musical theater heaven with NextStop’s lovely production of A Grand Night for Singing. A stellar cast that captivates with their bright personalities, lively dance, and beautiful voices makes for a delightful show, perfect for escaping the tiresome monotony of day-to-day life and reveling in the calming beauty of music, love, and the complexity of the human spirit.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 45 minutes, including an intermission.
A Grand Night for Singing plays through August 20, 2017, at NextStop Theatre Company – 269 Sunset Park Drive, in Herndon, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.