BWW Reviews: Standing Room Only Productions' FEELING ALRIGHT! Leaves Audiences Feeling Great
Standing Room Only Productions is kicking off the summer with a revival of the fun musical revue FEELING ALRIGHT!, which features a book by Houston playwright Michael Weems. The show, originally conceived by Rachel Landon, Wayne Landon, and Mary Minter, takes audiences back to 1975 to celebrate the 10 Year Reunion of Memorial High School's Class of 1965. As relationships change shape and truths are laid bare, the energetic cast rocks the audience with tuneful favorites that fit nicely into the light-hearted and romantic plot of the musical.
For the revival, Standing Room Only Productions brought back some of last summer's cast and creative teams, ensuring fans of the musical last year will still have plenty to be excited about with this year's production. Direction by Vance Johnson still puts emphasis on the energetic performances of these jukebox favorites. He has also coached his cast to create characters that remind us enough of people we know to be emotionally invested in their plots.
Returning cast members, Heather Hall as Jess, J.D. Rose as Greg, and Jeff Taylor as Johnny all offer performances that are on par or even better than what they offered last year. Heather Hall owns the evening with her bittersweet and evocative rendition of "Piece of My Heart," while breathing excellent life into numbers like "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" Jeff Taylor's cocky turned loveable Johnny delivers a powerhouse performance of "The Letter." J.D. Rose's Hippie, Vietnam veteran Greg invites audiences to chill and just relax with numbers like "Drift Away."
As Matt, a character who has been reworked, Marco Camacho creates a likeable character that doesn't seem to understand why anyone feels animosity towards him. His lively tenor instrument makes numbers like "My Girl" and "Working My Way Back to You" pure fun.
Robin Van Zandt's spacey Stacy is hysterical, but when it comes time for her to sing, she is all business. With soulful and delightful vocals, her renditions of songs like "Son of a Preacher Man" and "Baby, I Love You" are toe tapping good times.
Peggy, played in this version by Chelsea Lerner, also has been re-tooled. While still a shy girl who comes into her own, Chelsea Lerner creates a character that is tinged with elements of the screwball and zany. Her take on Peggy is comical and a joy to watch, especially as she goes from meekly singing to belting during the "Aretha Franklin Medley."
Wayne Landon's Music Direction allows the cast to re-create these golden standards for themselves. The audience knows the lyrics and melodies by heart, but each performance is a refreshingly original take on the classic songs in this show's songbook.
Choreography by Rachel Landon alternates between flashy pop dances of the era and the cooler, more free flowing movements of Hippie culture.
With James Hyatt on Guitar, Josh Artall on Piano, Matt Willhelm on Bass, and Sean Ramos on Drums, the band for FEELING ALRIGHT! looks great in their period costuming and provides great accompaniment to the vocals. Moreover, David Anderson capably mixes the volume of the band and live vocals in the intimate venue to ensure that almost everything is perfectly heard.
It is no secret that I had fun with last years presentation of FEELING ALRIGHT!, but this year's revival stepped the show up several notches. The visual aesthetic, especially concerning Costume Design by Rachel Landon and Cast is considerably more authentic and simply looks better on the cast than the pieces worn on stage last year. Moreover, the Scenic Design looks better as well.
FEELING ALRIGHT! is a fun musical revue that leaves audiences feeling better than alright. By the end of the show, there is no way you won't feel great! Sometimes it is nice to take a break from the challenging dramas happening around town and just enjoy yourself. If that is what you're looking for, FEELING ALRIGHT! is sure to leave you smiling from ear to ear and dancing in your seat (or even on the stage if you're one of the ones picked from the audience by the cast to participate in the show).
FEELING ALRIGHT!, produced by Standing Room Only Productions, runs at Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak Drive, Houston, 77007 now through May 23, 2014. Performances are May 17, 22, and 23 at 8:00 p.m. and May 18 at 2:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.sro-productions.com or call (713) 300-2358.
To read last year's review of FEELING ALRIGHT!, click here.
All photos by Nicole Nesson. Courtesy of Standing Room Only Productions.
New cast members L to R: Chelsea Lerner, Marco Camacho & Robin Van Zandt.