BWW Review: BERNSTEIN'S BROADWAY revived in Kansas City, MO

BWW Review:  BERNSTEIN'S BROADWAY revived in Kansas City, MO

Musical Theater Heritage has proven again that you do not need elaborate costumes, props, or scenery to produce a hit. This is especially true when they assembled a cast of some of the most talented performers to take the stage in Kansas City for their revival of Bernstein's Broadway.

The musical revue of Leonard Bernstein's work first appeared at the Off Center Theatre in 2008 when MTH made Crown Center their home. The revival nearly doubled the number of performances from eight in 2008 to 15 for the current production. Written by George Harter and Sarah Crawford, Bernstein's Broadway continues from March 27 through April 13.

The revue presents songs from Bernstein's On The Town, Wonderful Town, Candide, and his most celebrated and powerful production of West Side Story. Harder performs as narrator for the production, though many times humorously interrupted by cast members as he gives fascinating tidbits of information about the shows and Bernstein.

Sarah Crawford provides direction and musical direction for the production that includes Alison Sneegas Borberg, the only member of the cast to perform in the 2008 production. Borberg has a marvelous voice that became more evident in Act II as she takes on the role of Maria from West Side Story. Jacob Aaron Cullum, Ben Gulley, Justin G. McCoy, Stefanie Wienecke, Tyler Eisenreich, Megan Herrera, Robert Hingula, Megan Horsman, Linnaia McKenzie, Kami Rogers, and Bob Wearing join Borberg on stage.

Stefanie Wienecke has a wonderful voice and fine sense of comedic timing that has been proven repeatedly on Kansas City stages. Performing "Come Up To My Place" with Jacob Aaron Cullum is a hilarious skit that has the audience roaring with laughter. In Act I, she is the female lead and nearly steals the second act when she assumes the identity of Anita in West Side Story. Her next role is that of Shelby in Steel Magnolias at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre.

With facial contortions that erupt the audience in laughter, Jacob Aaron Cullum delivers comedy reminiscent of Jim Carrey. His vocals are enjoyable, but the comedic side of his performance is worth the cost of a ticket. The energetic performance is amusing to watch and delightful to hear. He stays with Musical Theater Heritage for their next production, South Pacific.

Ben Gulley has won awards and competitions, Metropolitan Opera, Richard Tucker Finalist, and Palm Beach Opera among others, for his magnificent voice. A graduate of UMKC and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City Apprenticeship his voice is enchanting. However, the winner is the audience at Bernstein's Broadway and the prize is listening to the operatic tenor perform.

Chicago native Justin G. McCoy recently appeared as Coalhouse in the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre production of Ragtime (a role he will repeat this summer). He has a fabulous powerful voice that blends smoothly with the other cast members.

A special hint to the audience: Watch The Piano Player. Jeremy Watson plays piano and is the Assistant Musical Director, but his real performance are his facial expressions and how he moves to the beat of each song.

Bernstein's Broadway continues at Off Center Theatre through April 13. Purchase tickets by visiting the Musical Theater Heritage website or call the box office at 816-545-6000. MTH presents South Pacific at the Off Center Theatre from August 7 through August 24.

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Steve Wilson Steve Wilson is a professional writer, artist, and photographer living in the Kansas City metropolitan area. For the last two years, he has been writing theatrical reviews, covering more than a dozen theatrical companies in the area. Previously he has written comedy material for nationally known entertainers, taught comedy writing at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and has had two books published. He continues to write for an internet news service covering sports, travel, and art in the area.

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