BWW Review: SONGBOOK OF THE 60S AND 70S OPENS AT QUALITY HILL PLAYHOUSE IN KANSAS CITY
Quality Hill Playhouse continues its BROADWAY AND ALL THAT JAZZ series with SONGBOOK OF THE 60S AND 70S at the Playhouse in Kansas City. Directed by Producing Artistic Director J. Kent Barnhart the fourth program in the series runs through May 26. The final installment in the series SONGBOOK OF THE 80S TO PRESENT begins June 14 and concludes the 2018-2019 season at the Playhouse on July 14.
SONGBOOK OF THE 60S AND 70S stars Christina Burton, Katie Karel, Francisco Javier Villegas, and LeShea Wright. The vocalists are accompanied by Barnhart on piano, Ken Remmert on drums, and Ben Tervort on bass. Barnhart emcees the program providing a good dose of humor along with historical facts about the song choices to keep the audience entertained.
Act I, Broadway, opens with a softly sung and slow rendition of "Cabaret". The arrangement to me was below the standards of the Playhouse that I have seen in the past. Sung by the entire cast, I expected the number to be a much quicker and exciting tempo than what was produced. The second song in the act, "Don't Rain On My Parade" from FUNNY GIRL was sung by all the women and set a livelier mood for the remaining of Act I.
Katie Karel provided a spark of energy with her solo of "Before The Parade Passes By" from HELLO DOLLY. Karel returns to Quality Hill Playhouse where she was last seen in IT'S DELOVELY. She has a wonderfully powerful voice that could easily be picked out during the ensemble performances. She has previously appeared at The Unicorn Theatre, The Coterie Theatre, Starlight, Musical Theater Heritage and the New Theatre among others.
Christina Burton performed a beautiful rendition of "What Did I Have That I Don't Have" from ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER. She previously appeared in SONGBOOK OF THE 20S AND 30S and SONGBOOK OF THE 50S among other Quality Hill productions. She is an Adjunct Dance Professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and teaches for the Kansas City Ballet.
LeShea Wright was marvelous as she performed "Home" from THE WIZ. She got her professional start in CHRISTMAS IN SONG in 2006 at Quality Hill where she has performed numerous times. She has performed as a soloist with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and performed as a background vocalist for Jason Sims, Trace Adkins, and Chrisette Michele among others.
The showstopper came as Javier (also known as Poncho) took the stage to give one of the most powerful performances I have had the pleasure of seeing as he sang "Gethsemane" from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. This performance, his voice, and body language were so intense that it sent chills throughout my body. This song alone would be worth the price of admission. He then showed his versatility as a performer singing a lively version of "Corner Of The Sky" from PIPPIN.
Act II, And All That Jazz was a slight disappointment as each song was sung by the ensemble and each one seemed slow and quiet. The instrumental of "The Pink Panther Theme" from THE PINK PANTHER movie was one of the few standouts of the second act. The other standout was the two versions of "Moon River" that was delightful to listen to. Even "The Girl From Ipanema" was performed at a slower beat, which made the song somewhat boring.
SONGBOOK OF THE 60S AND 70S continues at the Quality Hill Playhouse through May 26. Purchase tickets online at qualityhillplayhouse.com or call 816-421-1700.
Photos by Larry Levenson