BWW Review: THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC at Quality Hill Playhouse
"Magic" profiles the contributions to the American Songbook by composer Harold Arlen and his various lyricists. These selections single out Arlen's special affinity for songs that seem to portray the "blues."
Like most Quality Hill revues, Barnhart's dry wit and encyclopedic knowledge of the songbook is on full display. He has again engaged a superior cast and outstanding backup musicians for a typically professional evening of classic tunes.
The three singers chosen for this cast are familiar and popular with Kansas City audiences. They are Lauren Braton, Christina Burton, and LeShea Wright. All three are excellent performers and worth an evening of your time under any circumstances. This challenging music allows all three to shine.
Barnhart plays the grand piano, sings a bit, and narrates. Ken Remmert takes his usual spot behind the drums, Kevin Payton picks up the string bass, and Matt Baldwin sits in on clarinet and saxophone.
Harold Arlen's career spanned almost the whole of the twentieth century. Arlen came to music almost out of the womb. He was born in 1905, the son of a cantor at a Buffalo (New York) synagogue lived into the mid 1980s.
Arlen composed more the 500 songs for Vaudeville, Big Bands, the New York Stage, and for film. He is best known for his motion picture scores of the "Wizard of Oz" (with Yip Harburg) in 1939 and "A Star Is Born" (with Johnny Mercer) in 1954.
"That Old Black Magic" features twenty-two selections including the title tune, "Over the Rainbow," Accentuate the Positive," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Stormy Weather," and more. Although Arlen seldom wrote in the "blues" idiom, many of his composition subject matters appealed to Jazz musicians.
This is this writer's first trip back to Quality Hill since completion of a very nice expanded lounge / bar area attached to the theatre. It is comfortable and very well done.
Tickets for "That Old Black Magic" are available by telephone at 816-421-1700 or on the QHP website www. http://qualityhillplayhouse.com .
Photo courtesy of Quality Hill Playhouse by Larry Levenson.