BWW Reviews: Tight Harmonies Keep SONGBOOK Open
"The Great American Songbook"
01/14/2013 @ 1:00 PM
If you like nostalgia, young pretty faces with big toothy smiles, lots of high energy singing and dancing, then "The Great American Songbook", (a "Juke Box" Musical Revue), is the show for you!
This closely woven tapestry, of musical hits from Tin Pan Alley to Las Vegas, played to a huge crowd of mostly senior citizens, for One "AFTERNOON" Only, as part of Ruth Eckerd Hall's 2013 Adults At Leisure Series.
The 85 minute, non-stop show, opened with "Sentimental Journey", which took the audience back in time to the 1940's Big Band era. The first chapter, Tin Pan Alley, included the songs "You Took Advantage of Me", "Our Love Is Here To Stay" "I've Got the World on a String", among others. A highlight of this segment was a beautifully sung duet of , "I'm Beginning to See the Light" and tight harmonies in a stunning, (sextet), accapella arrangement, of "Our Love is Here to Stay.
The nearly 50 songs in this ten chapter collection, were choreographed to the maximum degree. And may I add, performed to the maximum degree as well. This talented group of young professionals did not miss a beat. Not only was there choreography for each song, but there was "MIC"-ography in "The New Jersey Boys" chapter as well. "MIC" -ography is a loosely used, (theatrical term), for precise, unison movements, performed with a microphone and stand, (as if a partner). This was typical of many "boy groups" in the 1960's ala 'The Jersey Boys". This chapter was clearly an audience favorite.
There was also a tribute to Frank Sinatra, ("Come Fly with Me"), Peggy Lee, ("Fever"), Tom Jones ("It's Not Unusual") Barry Manilow ("Copacabana"), and to Motown, featuring a Supremes medley that included "Baby Love" and "Stop in the Name of Love".
The finale was a modern, montage tribute to America, which included "R.O.C.K.in the U.S.A", "Comin' to America", "Born in the USA, and "Livin'in America".
Although there were very polished performances, there were some distractions that hindered the actual flow of the show. There was a choreographed production number with oversized, floating picture frames that did nothing to enhance the song selections. There was also some very modern, "Pop-sounding/riff" renditions of well-known standards that hid melody lines making a few of these classics unrecognizable. There was also an unnecessary insert of a lyrical, pas de deux ("danced" by singers), during "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me".
The simple set design consisted of 2 sets of stairs on either side of a center platform. It was surrounded by a simple theatre marquee' and cityscape, all of which helped the audience to focus on the performers. The lighting design was simple and effective and the cast was adequately costumed, and there were many costumes, (albeit a bit pedestrian), and without any WOW factor. The sound design was very good, thanks mainly to the near perfect acoustics of Ruth Eckerd Hall.
That being said, the high energy singing and dancing, combined with a Superb 3 piece band (piano, bass,drums) and I mean SUPERB, made for a great afternoon down memory lane.
I would have liked to acknowledge the cast, musicians, and creative staff by name, but there were no references in the show program.
The show was produced by Matt Davenport Productions, who created and produced hundreds of shows, nationwide including Hershey park, Holiday World and Splashin' Safari, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Busch Gardens Tampa, Dollywood, and SeaWorld San Antonio.
A special treat at Ruth Eckerd Hall, is a pre-show Boxed Lunch prior to each Adult at Leisure performance, priced at $10.00 per person. Single were tickets were priced at $25 and $18. For future events, The Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Office is located at 1111 McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater or by calling 727.791.7400.
Photo Credit: Ruth Eckerd Hall