BWW Review: This Year's BROADWAY AT GOOD THEATER Is Bigger, Brighter, and Bolder!
The annual Christmastime musical revue which the Good Theater presents has grown incrementally bigger, more complex, more sparkling, and more striking each season. This year's two-hour songfest, written and directed by Brian P. Allen, is dedicated to the musicals of the 1930s and with some dozen performers and an excellent musical combo, the evening proves a delightful tribute to the great American songwriters and a cheerful way to ring in the holidays.
Allen, who began his career in musical theatre, possesses a comprehensive knowledge and appreciation of the genre, and he weaves together the thirty-three musical numbers with a sure sense of structure and flow. Treating the program with the intimacy of a cabaret setting and having the luxury in the small house of unmiked performances, Allen elicits from his cast charming, colorful, characterful interpretations of the diverse music and brilliant lyrics which distinguish the writers of the period, among themJerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. He paces the program smartly and moves the players about the stage with a graceful ease. Moreover, he is skillful at choosing each performer's songs with a view to his/her interpretative strengths.
Musical Director Victoria Stubbs provides the stylish arrangements and together with Jon Lawson on bass/guitar and Bill Manning on percussion, the trio offers catchy, tuneful lyrical support. Justin Cote supplies the tasteful Christmas décor which suggests a posh club setting, while Ian Odlin manipulates mood with his lighting design.
The cast includes New York artists Kenita R. Miller and Nicholas Callaway Foster, as well as returning Good Theater performers, Laura Houck, Lynne McGhee, Jennifer Manzi MacLeod, Jen Means, Marissa Sheltra, Amy Roche, Glenn Anderson, Jim Gaddis, Conor Martin, and young Halim Moldaver - all of whom prove engaging. Miller is a soulful songstress with a dusky, powerful torch singer's instrument, and she filled the theatre with her sound and charisma. Foster displayed a silky lyric baritone in several of the romantic numbers.
Among the numerous highlights of the evening were Miller's set of "Harlem On My Mind" and "Suppertime" from the Berlin-Hart "As Thousands Cheer; Foster's renditions of Kern's "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and Porter's "Night and Day"; Gaddis in a sassy, wickedly funny "Love For Sale"; Anderson's well-articulated Noel Coward patter-song, "Mad Dogs and Englishmen"; Houck's seductive and witty "The Physician" from Porter's Nymph Errant; Means' disarming "The Lady Is a Tramp"; MacLeod's sultry "Heat Wave"; Martin's martial "Strike Up the Band"; McGhee's brassy "Oh Diogenes"; Moldaver in a 30s "rap" prototype "When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba"; Roche's plaintively amusing "Nobody Makes a Pass at Me"; and Sheltra's lyrical duet with Foster, "All the Things You Are."
At the end of a thoroughly enjoyable evening, one is left to revel in the richness of the American musical, the inventiveness of its Golden Age composers and lyricists, and the talent of the ensemble which Allen has pout together.
Photos Courtesy of the Good Theater
Broadway at the Good ran from December 2-6, 2016. The next production is Shear Madness from January 27-March 20 at the Good Theater, 76 Congress Street, Portland, ME www.goodtheater.com 207-885-5883