BWW Reviews: Standing Room Only Productions' DEFY GRAVITY: A STEPHEN SCHWARTZ SONGBOOK is a Joyous Celebration
Oh what a joyous celebration it is. I could not help but to be excited as I sat down and prepared myself for Standing Room Only Productions' DEFY GRAVITY: A STEPHEN SCHWARTZ SONGBOOK. Tony nominated, Academy Award and Grammy winner Stephen Schwartz has created music and lyrics for some of the classics in which we all know and love.
For over four decades, his musical career has brought to life hit musicals such as Godspell, The Baker's Wife and Wicked, as well as music in some of our favorite films such as Pocahontas, The Prince of Egypt and Enchanted. In honor and celebration of this brilliant composer, DEFY GRAVITY was conceived by Michael J. Bobbitt with musical arrangement by John Cornelius ll. Together, they have created a musical revue comprised of 28 songs which takes the audience on a journey through many of Schwartz's classics in the realm of musicals and film.
DEFY GRAVITY opens the gateway for a good time with a robust rendition of The Spark of Creation (Children of Eden). Under the direction of Roy Hamlin, the talented cast of 10 brings to life each song as they embody the song's meaning and spirit in each scene. Each performer shows refined vocal prowess. Whether in a number all together or a number featuring just a few, everyone exudes the exuberance and tenacity to tickle that sweet spot in your brain responsible for happiness.
Cornelius' arrangement style is interesting. Many of the musical numbers are familiar, but they are served up with a twist. Quite a few mélanges are created with Schwartz's musical pieces. For example, Popular (Wicked) is combined with True Love's Kiss (Enchanted). Together they are delivered with a fun doo-wop vibe. There is also a breathtaking combination of Defying Gravity (Wicked) with Corner of the Sky (Godspell). A quite intriguing rendition of Day by Day from Godspell was sung in multiple languages.
DEFY GRAVITY is a show that features so many gems that it is difficult for me to have a favorite. I liked everything from Ronna Mansfield's passionate deliverance of Blame it on the Summer Night (Rags) to the razzle dazzle performance of Solid Silver Platform Shoes (The Magic Show) by Mansfield, Sydney Roberts, Robin Van Zandt, Taylor Siebeneicher and Michael Stewart.
One of Schwartz's lesser known works that really stands out is Eduardo Alberto Tercero's powerfully hearting warming rendition of Cold Enough to Snow (Life with Mickey). Personally, it is a song that I have never given much thought. However, after hearing Tercero sing, it definitely left something to be remembered. In addition to that, I have to say that The Colors of the Wind (Pocahontas) is quite outstanding. It features the entire cast and is just a raw and awe-inspiring piece. The cast accompanies their melodic voices around the theatre by also performing the song in sign language. Something so simple has such big impact on adding emotion to the song.
The design aspect of DEFY GRAVITY is well thought out. The band does a great job not overshadowing singing and their accompaniment is enjoyable. The lighting design by Vance Johnson is effective and does much to help contribute to the persona of each scene. I very much appreciated the beige and white theme of the costume design by Elaine Steinbach. It just seemed very refreshing and helped keep the atmosphere light and cheery. Choreography by Kristin Warren is outstanding. With an array of different dance styles, the performers adequately fill up the theatre's performance space. With the intimate setting at Obsidian Art Space, I felt as if I were a part of the magic happening on stage.
Standing Room Only Production's DEFY GRAVITY is a celebration for sure. With an endearing and talented ensemble, they will take you on an enjoyably fun journey through the music of legendary American composer and lyricist Stephen Swartz. If you're looking to be entertained, go out and see this musical revue. Full of dance and familiar songs, albeit with a twist, you surely will not be disappointed.
Standing Room Only's production of DEFY GRAVITY runs July 17- August 2. For tickets and more information go to http://www.sro-productions.com.