OVER HERE! - Back with the Beat at The Triad
On Monday night, Over Here! The Big Band Musical was back in New York at The Triad Theatre for the first time since its original 1974 Broadway production and the joint was jumpin'. Veteran's Day proved to be the perfect time to revive this beloved celebration of the American spirit and optimism that defined the 1940's. To make it even more worthwhile, a portion of the proceeds from the evening was donated to Vietnam Veterans of America.
Over Here! is one of this journalist's favorite musicals, so I was thrilled to have it back on the boards. Under the razor-sharp direction of Will Nunziata, who is quickly becoming a go-to director, this feel-good show sparkled and shined like a freshly polished diamond. It featured a stellar cast of 19, plus an 11-piece swing band, under musical director Blake Allen. Choreographer Andrew Black used every inch of space to give us one eye-popping musical number after another.
The original production of Over Here! brought the two surviving Andrews Sisters, Patty and Maxene, to Broadway, and kick-started a second career for them. It featured an entertaining book by Will Holt and an infectious, nostalgic score by The Sherman Brothers, Richard M. and Robert B., who brought us such classic movie musicals as Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It also had show-stopping choreography by Patricia Birch and featured a cast full of soon-to-be household names, including John Travolta, Marilu Henner, Ann Reinking, and Treat Williams.
History has a way of repeating itself and this one-night-only concert featured a dynamite cast of talent. Tony award-winner Debbie Gravitte played Nora Spokesman, the show's narrator, changing hats to play many hilarious characters along the way. Broadway favorites Haley Swindal and Jessica Hendy took on the central roles of The De Paul Sisters and each blew the roof off the place with her dynamic vocals. Swindal shook the walls with her electric performance of "Charlie's Place", which was punctuated by dancers flying through the air and swinging away. In the show's 11 o'clock number, "Where Did The Good Times Go", Hendy made us tear up as our souls longed for that time long past. Nikka Graff Lanzarone added her own pizzazz as Mitzi - the Nazi spy with legs for days. As the young lovebirds, June and Bill, adorable Dani Apple and rapidly-rising new star Mark William stole the hearts of the audience with their duet "My Dream For Tomorrow". The biggest laugh of the night was William working out his carnal frustrations while doing what seemed like endless pushups. He had the whole room in stitches without speaking a word. A big shout out to the supporting cast, vocal quartet, and especially the dancers, who created magic with very little space. Nunziata certainly has an eye for casting. Each and every performer brought their A-game, making this very special one-night-only event unforgettable.
The sold-out audience included original Over Here! creatives: choreographer Patricia Birch, the shows original producer, Ken Waissman, and costume designer Carrie Robbins. Also in attendance was Robert Jason Sherman, the son of Robert B. Sherman. They, along with the rest of the audience, had a marvelous time reliving this wonderful show at a time when we are in desperate need of the American spirit and optimism it celebrates.
Photo Credit: Adam Gregory
Haley Swindal, Rohan Zhou-Lee
Haley Swindal with Christina Dallons, Rohan Zhou-Lee, Hanna Flam, Rafal Pustelny
Haley Swindal, Rohan Zhou-Lee
Over Here! leading cast with the shows original creators: Blake Allen (Musical Director), Mark William, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Carrie Robbins (original costume designer), Jessica Hendy, Will Nunziata, Haley Swindal, Patricia Birch (original choreographer), Ken Waissman (original producer), Dani Apple