BWW Reviews: Wishing for Spring? Look No Further Than The Short North Stage's A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING
The Short North Stage opened its second show of this season, Rodger's and Hammerstein's "A Grand Night For Singing" last night with its Garden Theater living up to its moniker and transformed into a balmy English garden. The incomparable Michael Brewer creates a set that appears like the best of the Home and Garden show on steroids, and utilizes the tiny stage space well, immersing its audience in a much-needed escape from the dreadful Ohio winter outside. The show itself, oft billed as a musical, but most aptly titled a musical revue, is a compilation (conceived by Walter Bobbie in the early 1990's) of over 30 of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most popular tunes from shows such as "Oklahoma", 'Carousel", "The King and I", "State Fair", "South Pacific", "Cinderella" and more, plus a few more obscure pieces thrown in for good measure, and strung together extremely loosely with a "plot" that speaks of the many aspects of falling in love, being in love, falling out of love, and wishing one was in love. In other words, whatever you're dreading or embracing the approach of Valentine's Day- there's a song for you.
Contextually modernized, with the cast members utilizing their own names for their characters, and costumed with a romantic and current flair by Stephanie Keller, the show is a sweet, low-key sampler of R&H's impressive collection and a fond reminder of just how diverse this pair's creations were. The five person cast is undeniably talented. All veteran stage performers that are at their best when together creating delicious harmonies to songs such as a jazzy version of "Kansas City", or a doo-wop version of "Honey Bun", each brings a unique energy to their individual character and gets ample time in the spotlight on their own accord. Dana Delisa is fun and sassy with "I Can't Say No" . Krista Stauffer alternates between overlooked and idolized with, "It's Me". Brian Hupp delivers a beautiful version of the classic "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin' " to open Act II. Nick Hardin croons "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top" with bouncy gusto, and Cassie Rae who solos beautifully as well ('It Might As Well Be Spring", also joins Nick on a darling, bouncy version of "Shall We Dance?". Director, Matt Clemens does a fine job of gluing the rather disjointed pieces together, and creates a very nice continuity , but if you are searching for a plot- don't. The show was originally presented in cabaret-style, and if you approach it knowing such, you can appreciate why its Broadway version was nominated for several Tony Awards and a Drama Desk Award- it's simply gorgeous music, great voices, and fun entertainment.
If you're sick of the drab, cold Ohio weather, sneak over and warm up in the Short North Stage's Garden Theater, where "It Might As Well Be Spring", and you'll be guaranteed "A Lovely Night" where you'll be humming "Something Wonderful" right on through the Central Ohio deep freeze.
The Short North Stage at 1187 North High St Columbus, OH 43201 presents Rodgers and Hammerstein's "A Grand Night For Singing" now through Feb 6-23, with shows at 8pm Thurs.- Sat., 2pm on most Saturdays, and 3pm on most Sundays. For additional information and tickets, go to: http://www.shortnorthstage.org/calendar/v/229
PHOTO CREDIT: Heather Wack