BWW Review: Broadway at the Good Theater Pays Tribute to 1940s
Each year Portland's Good Theater presents a holiday musical revue, written and directed by Brian P. Allen, and dedicated to celebrating a decade in American musical theatre history. Allen's show this year is devoted to the 1940s when so many of the geniuses of the "legitimate" musical theatre style reigned supreme. The revue he has created is ambitious and comprehensive featuring twenty-five performers, including several Broadway actors, and covering the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Cole Porter, Kurt Weill, and the Gershwins, together with many lesser-known writers. Performed with the intimacy and informality of a cabaret setting, Broadway at the Good Theater offers a nostalgic and delightful musical evening.
Allen's knowledge of the repertoire is extensive and enthusiastic, and he has a sure knack for sequencing numbers and staging songs out of context. He delights in offering lesser-known pieces - many which have been deemed "flops" - and finding new life in them. Always, there is a wry wit that keeps the twenty-five numbers flowing briskly. He is ably assisted by Music Director Victoria Stubbs, whose arrangements add to the continuity, and by the other members of the trio, Asher Barreras on bass and Bill Manning on percussion. Betsy Melarkey Dunphy and Raymond Marc Dumont provide more elaborate choreography than in many previous shows.
Allen and Steve Underwood (Justin Cote set dressing) create the appealing backdrop of a Christmas tree ladder laden with poinsettias, enhanced by Iain Odlin's lighting design with its rich, saturated hues. Stage Manager Michael Lynch and Technical Director Craig Robinson complete the production ensemble.
In as large a cast as this, there is a breadth of styles and experience to be dealt with, but Allen uses each actor to his best advantage. Broadway performer Trisha Jeffrey uses her light, but attractive voice to create a series of polished renditions of favorites such as "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" and a lilting Kurt Weill medley. Daniel Patrick Smith turns in a sexy, funny Latin spoof in "The Latin in Me," " a witty sendup of "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and a charming duet with Shannon Thurston in "Hey Good Lookin'." Aaron Engebreth impresses with big, lyrical interpretations of "Almost Like Being in Love" and "Some Enchanted Evening."
Among the Good Theater veterans, Shannon Thurston proves herself a compelling performer with a rich voice and strong interpretive skills. John Lanham, Mark Rubin and Conor Riordan Martin turn in some spirited moments. And several newcomers impress this season, especially Mary Johnston Letellier, whose operatic soprano is used to fine effect in selections from BRIGADOON and SONG OF NORWAY, Jennine Cannizzo (not new to Portland, but to the Good) with her gutsy humor, and David Bass-Clark with his charming extroverted presence.
Rounding out the cast with animated performances are Abeba Isaac, Glenn Anderson, Colleen Clark, Hannah Daly, Marie Dittmer, Nancy Durgin, Tom Handel, Gusta Johnson, Andrew Lamb, Jen Means, Cory Osbourne, Jennifer Rachele, Caleb Streadwick, Tommy Waltz, and Colin Whiteman.
BROADWAY AT THE GOOD THEATER provides a happy alternative to some of the tried and true holiday productions and allows audiences to relax, enjoy, and learn a little something about our American musical canon.
Photographs courtesy of the Good Theater, Steven Underwood, photographer
BROADWAY AT THE GOOD runs December 3 - 8, 2019 at the Good Theater, 76 Congress Street, Portland, ME www.goodtheater.org 207-838-0895