BWW Reviews: 'S WONDERFUL - a Trip Down Memory Lane

BWW Reviews:    'S WONDERFUL - a Trip Down Memory Lane

'S WONDERFUL - a "Trip Down Memory Lane"
Music and Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin

Feb 9, 2013 at 7:30P.M.

'S WONDERFUL - The New Gershwin Musical, now playing at the Jaeb Theatre through April 28th, is a lovely, nostalgic, "trip down memory lane". This high stepping, singing and dancing musical revue, is a fine tribute to the music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin. The cast of 5, talented performers, are certain to put a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

S'Wonderful is the perfect sized musical to play the cabaret-style, Jaeb Theatre. The stage is set, with a center platform, with 2 sets of stairs on either side. A grand piano is center. The cast brings on some some small set pieces that are used at various times during the production. The use of projections, (although not performed in chronological order), take us to New York City in 1916, Paris in the 1939, Hollywood in 1948, New Orleans in 1957, and "Now", within the context of 5 musical vignettes.

The soft opening begins with the classic, "Rhapsody in Blue", played beautifully by Musical Director, Michael Sebastian. Over 40 musical song and dance numbers are jam-packed into the 2 Act revue, played non-stop by the gifted, Mr. Sebastian on piano, along with recorded instrumental tracks. Show creator Ray Roderick, added a great deal of dialogue to the production; just as trite and corny as the period dialogue from the Gershwin era. The stars of the show were the songs! "Our Love is Here to Stay", "Embraceable You", "Fascinating Rhythm", "The Man I Love", "Stairway to Paradise", and more...and more, well known classics and standards, that kept the young at heart in the audience humming and singing along.

Ever smiling, Christopher Timson plays Harold. Mr. Timson is a triple threat. His beautiful, lyric tenor voice, is like silk; especially when he is singing in his upper register. His introduction to "Swanee", was exceptional. His facial expressions and comedic abilities shined in the "Nice Work If You Can Get It" scene. In addition, Mr.Timson displayed extraordinary, skilled, dancing talents.

Well-trained soprano, Laurie Sutton, showed great vocal range as the eternal ingenue, and made a charming Leslie. Her pretty looks, and clear singing and speaking voice, along with her natural dancing ease, made her a stand-out in every scene. Her rendition of "Boy Wanted" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" were scene highlights.

Raven haired beauty, Kristina Huegel, as Jane, belted out some great tunes including'Funny Face", "They All Laughed", and "Do It Again". Her flirty, scene stealing feature as a make-up artist, in The Hollywood section, was a show favorite.

Curvy Tia Jemison, as Nina, added warmth and depth to her ballads in the New Orleans segment. Ms. Jemison excelled in her dialogue scenes and her comedic talents sparkled in the bouncy, "Just Another Rhumba".

Lyric Baritone, Andrew Mauney rounded out the cast with his sweet voice, great comic timing, and athletic dance moves. He sang a memorable rendition of "Somebody Loves Me" and his duet with Kristina Huehel of "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" was another scene highlight. Mr. Mauney showed off his comedic talents in the Hollywood segment, to the delight of the audience.

Director Tripp Hampton, assembled a tight, little, show package. There was a great deal of high energy choreography that kept the show moving, although some numbers were over-choreographed, which became a distraction rather than an asset to the music. A show highlight, was Mr. Hampton's "Typewriting Montage", during the "I Got Rhythm"scene. Kudos to Musical Director, Michael Sebastian who did an admirable job teaching and coaching all of this music, as well as playing the non-stop score, exquisitly. Attention to some "pitchy" singing and to some racing tempos can easily be rectified. Minimal costumes and pieces by Barbara Anderson helped to define period and character. The backdrop and unit set by Scenic Designer Lewis Folden, was perfect for this revue, but unfortunatly underutilized. Lighting Design by Mike Wood was excellent and really helped to create mood and atmosphere.

So take a "trip down memory lane", sing along, hum, and tap your feet, to the amazing Gershwin score. And if you like lots of singing and lots of high energy dancing, then you will have a 'S WONDERFUL time at the Jaeb.!

Run-time: 2 hours including one intermission
'S Wonderful will play the Jaeb Theatre, Feb. 7 - April 28, 2013 at at the Straz Center,
1010 North W.C. MacInnes Place • Tampa, Florida 33602
Tickets: $25.50 - $32.50 and may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, or in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online.

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