Rodgers and Hammerstein, the team which gave us Carousel! Sound of Music. Oklahoma! South Pacific. The King and I, undoubtedly have one of the most celebrated musical theatre canons in the world. Even their lesser musicals contain gems, as famed director Walter Bobbie realized when he curated the revue A Grand Night for Singing. Originally presented as a cabaret, Grand Night opened on Broadway in 1993 and went on to receive two Tony nominations
A moody red glow pervades the stage, its set a lounge, complete with functioning bar, available to the audience before the show and during intermission. It is definitely classy and feels a bit jazzy. The cast looks like they’ve stepped out of a black and white 1950s film noir into Technicolor. They—Matthew Hirsh, Marquise White, Sarah Anne Sillers, Katherine Riddle, and Karen Vincent—are dapper in bright hues, perfect accents to their strong, expressive voices. White’s, in particular, carries a deep resonance and a hint of pop styling that brings a modern sound to each song he sings. Siller’s, too, has a dynamic quality perfect for each of her numbers, while Riddle hits high notes with exquisite precision.
A love thread (naturally) runs through many of the songs: Love triangles. Love found. Love lost. Love denied, and the actors play to it to the hilt. Starting with “Surrey with the Fringe On Top,” Hirsh and Riddle set a tone of playfulness. Later Hirsh sings (How do you solve a problem like) “Maria” as if it is about an unattainable girl. It’s a nice spin a classic that’s otherwise hard to imagine without nuns. Hirsh—who has a breezy, devil-may-care way about him—is often funny, and the funniest beside White, especially during “Don’t Marry Me” from the less rarely seen Flower Drum Song.
The full cast shines on “Kansas City” and during the finale number, “Impossible/I Have Dreamed,” but there is no powerhouse performance or showstopper, not necessarily a bad thing in an ensemble show. “It’s Me,” sung by Vincent, “Love, Look Away” sung by Hirsh, and “This Nearly Was Mine” sung by White come close. Still, none gave me chills or encouraged me to my feet.
A Grand Night for Singing
closes August 20, 2017
Details and tickets
To enjoy this show, you don’t need to recognize the musicals referenced. It might help but A Grand Night is lovely and doesn’t require too much of the audience, except for a few willing participants to sit on stage and in the front row to be tapped for the occasional dance, which I found perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon. Sometimes that’s just what you need.
Overall, A Grand Night For Singing has a great score—it’s well put together—and the songs flow nicely from one another. The cast is peppy, and the ambiance is fun. The material is classic musical theatre, so there are no surprises on that front. If you love the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, this would be a night (or afternoon) well spent. Ditto if you don’t know the music! Good music is good music and when it has the right voice and great style, as this NextStop production offers, it becomes grand night for singing.
A Grand Night For Singing . Music and Lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Musical Arrangements and Orchestration by Fred Wells Michael Gibson and Jonathan Tunick. Conceived by Walter Bobbie. Directed and Choreography by Michael J. Bobbit. Music Directed by Elisa Rosman. Featuring Matthew Hirsh, Katherine Riddle, Sarah Anne Sillers, Karen Vincent, and Marquise White. Musicians: Elisa Rosman and Scott Richards, Piano/Conductor; Karen Young and Peter Franklin, Cello; Mitch Bassman and Lindsay Williams, Reeds; Hayden Busby and Glen Scimonelli, Percussion. Production: Bobby Libby, Assistant Director; Evan Hoffmann, Scenic Design; Jason Arnold, Lighting Design; Robert Croghan, Costume Design; Reid May, Sound Design; Jessica Dubish, Assistant Stage Manager; Scott Rodgers, Sound Mixer; and Britney Mangold, Scenic Painter. Stage Managed by Laura Moody. Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.