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BWW Review: THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN at Barrington Stage Company

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Comfort food for the theatrical soul.

BWW Review: THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN at Barrington Stage Company
Storm Lever. Alexandria Silber, Alysha Umphress
Photo: Daniel Rader

Together, composer Richard Rodgers, and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II created eleven Broadway Musicals in the 1940's and 50's initiating the Golden Age of musical theatre. The duo is responsible for classics known, performed, and loved the world over. The duo's work is pervasive. So much so, enjoying the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein has become almost synonymous with summer.

BWW Review: THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN at Barrington Stage Company
Storm Lever
Photo: Daniel Rader

One of Rodgers and Hammerstein's more successful shows, South Pacific, was originally scheduled to open the 2020 season on Barrington Stage Company's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage. In late April, it was announced that the production, along with most of the 2020 season, would be postponed until 2021. In mid-May plans for an alternative 2020 season that included a concert version of South Pacific were announced. In keeping with the old saying about the best laid plans, things changed. That said, change can be for good.

BWW Review: THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN at Barrington Stage Company
Alexandra Silber
Photo: Daniel Rader

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN is a concert type performance with a limited cast of 5, a band of 4, no sets and a limited technical crew. Musical numbers from all but one of the eleven R&H musicals are incorporated into the somewhat cabaret style event. Toes tap and hands clap throughout as the audience delights to music written for STATE FAIR, ME AND JULIET, CAROUSEL, ALLEGRO, CINDERELLA, THE KING AND I, FLOWER DRUM SONG, OKLAHOMA, SOUTH PACIFIC, and THE SOUND OF MUSIC. As we are reminded, classics from R&H musicals often crossed over. They were covered by popular artists and often heard on the radio. The concert format allows for presentation in ways that are non-traditional. Many of the evening's selections are presented with alternative arrangements giving them a fresh, interesting, and new feel.

BWW Review: THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN at Barrington Stage Company
Alan H. Green
Photo: Daniel Rader

Not being tied to scripting and traditional roles provides a level of freedom for the attractive and talented ensemble to perform them with an enhanced level of interpretation. This is particularly noticeable when "We Kiss in a Shadow" is presented as a duet in which Alan H. Green's soulful and sometimes raspy tones are paired with Nicholas Rodriguez's mellow rich resonance. Both men show themselves to be skilled vocalists in a performance that is both strong and tender yet unique and different. Each member of the ensemble, which also includes Storm Lever, Alexandra Silber, and Alysha Umphress demonstrate their impressive skills both individually and in various combinations. Ms. Lever's presentation of "It's Me" from ME AND JULIET includes a fun little dance interlude choreographed by Shea Sullivan. Her rendition of "Something Wonderful" from THE KING AND I is sweet and tender. Ms. Silber shows great depth and range across a number of varied solos that allowed for some powerful belting in "I Cain't Say No" from OKLAHOMA and a "Hello Young Lovers" from THE KING AND I that is warm, poignant, and presented with great maturity. Alysha Umphress seems to take full

BWW Review: THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN at Barrington Stage Company
Alysha Umphress
Photo: Daniel Rader

advantage of her solo opportunities to infuse character and interpretation into her presentations of "It Might as Well Be Spring" from STATE FAIR and "Bali Ha'i" from SOUTH PACIFIC. The latter included some impressive riffs and both of which were infused with a quality that could be termed sultry. The evening includes a sing-along led by Alan H. Green that allows the masked and socially distanced audience to join in the fun.

BWW Review: THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN at Barrington Stage Company
Nicholas Rodriguez
Photo: Daniel Rader

In pre-curtain remarks, BSC Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, who (along with Musical Director, Darren R. Cohen) conceived and directed THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN described the duo's work as "comfort food for the soul". Throughout the presentation, the audience was sincerely and repeatedly thanked by cast members for the opportunity to share with them music that as Boyd put it is "just not the same as sitting at home". Smiles on the masked faces as the sun set and many were no doubt whistling a happy tune as they returned to their cars suggested that although there are most certainly changes and differences, THE HILLS ARE (still) ALIVE WITH RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN. Performances continue on the Tartell Family Outdoor Stage adjacent to BSC's St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield though August 29th. Visit https://barringtonstageco.org/ for tickets and additional information.


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From This Author Marc Savitt